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Ray Felix Challenged Marvel and DC Over Superhero Trademark and Won!

Interview with Ray Felix over his right to use Superhero

Blast from the past! We’re republishing our original interview from 2013 that appeared in Crisp Comics (now unavailable). Miguel Guerra spoke to Ray Felix as he was caught in the eye of a legal maelstrom. Ray’s self published book, A World Without Superheroes, was challenged by both Marvel and DC over his use of “superhero” in his title. The Big Two claim they own “superhero” in any context (damn!). Our interview was so popular, many news sites and blogs, like The Guardian and the New York Daily News wrote articles about it.

Miguel: Ray it’s a pleasure to have you here with us. I like to start by asking you before you got your first cease and desist letter, did you know  that the word Superhero? I know I was shocked to find out a generic word that is used so commonly like the word chair was owned. Were you surprised?

Ray: I had heard in 2006 that Marvel and DC had jointly renewed their trademark on the word Super Hero.  Even still, jointly trademarking a word does not entitle any company or individual rights over the word as DC/ Marvel had proclaimed.  In their eyes they own every and any variation of the word regardless of spelling, variation in a statement or sentence in the English language or foreign.   Registration marks do not work that way.  It’s illegal and impractical.  Also, Registration gives you legal rights to word usage for a literal element.  Meaning a specific product which uses the actual word to sell a product(s).  Trademarks/ registered marks are never secure and can always be brought into opposition by any party which feels that it is infringing on their registration rights.

Miguel: How did you react? And when did you get it? Did you get a lawyer?

Ray: At first I laughed for a few months, then I realized they were not going to simply go away.  I was cautioned , if not threatened in a polite manner to drop my registration mark application for about six months.  I did not drop the application and my mark : Cup O Java studio Comix (now Bronx Heroes Publishing) A World Without Superheroes, was published as a registered mark.

A World Without Superhoroes by Ray Felix

Miguel: So what has it been like having to deal with Marvel/DC lawyers?

Ray: At first they seemed to be friendly, but once I brought into question their limitations of the word Super Hero and presented my right to use my published mark, their lawyer began to grunt and lose patience in our conversations and then began making sharp remarks.

Miguel: So your title is a world without Superheroes, and I understand you already trademarked it? Did you trademark it before you got the letter?

Ray: It was published for about three months before the letter from Kenyon and Kenyon.

Miguel: So what’s it like representing yourself and what’s the court process like? did you have to go to court? Also I imagine representing your self you’ve must of done a great deal of research what did you discover?

Ray: Nothing so dramatic. Everything was impersonal and took place through uploads and emails.

Miguel: So what sort of updates are there in your case like tell us about?

Ray: Due to an upload error I was  was charged with Abandonment and then fought to get it reinstated. I still have a challenge ahead of me because the judge found my answers to the office action as Argumentative.

Miguel: Now you realize that most out there reading this probably think you’re  a sucker punishment. What do you have to say to them?

Ray: I went public about the case at the last Mocca Con and was surprised that I was treated like a leper.  It was the first time I felt like an excommunicated Christian at a comic con. Few voices were supportive. I got a few snickers and a few childish responses from so called male adults. It surprised me that people who spend their money at comic cons and read about heroes are so afraid and un-heroic in their own code to stand for something. They’re conditioned puppets of corporate structures.

What I found more ironic is that Mocca is an Indie comic con, not a mainstream con.  I thought this is where the artists and writers are the power base of independent media in comics would exist.  The pulse of change and against the establishment.  This wasn’t the case.

I think the founders, board members and advisers of Mocca who I know personally are committed to alternate comics and readership. I believe they are committed to being a part of the revolutionary spirit of the sixties, seventies and eighties.

Unfortunately, the torch has not been passed to younger generations and their minds are more in tuned to making money and becoming another corporate structure that has little to do with creativity, literacy in comics or education.

The younger generations in the comics business are just hipsters who look like independent artists but have a corporate mindset of making themselves the next mainstream.  Kind of like when MTV created the term “alternative music” which was the death of the New Wave art form.

Miguel: All Right Ray, thanks and all the best! Will keep an eye on your case as as it could set a new precedent.