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The litigation over the Spawn comic book series hasn’t received as much attention as cases surrounding ownership of longer-lived characters like Spider-Man and Superman, which we’ve been covering devoutly. But the case over rights to Spawn, a murdered CIA agent who makes a pact with the devil to return to Earth as a demon, involves two of the new titans of the comic book industry–illustrator/writer Todd McFarlane and writer Neil Gaiman. And both were in federal district court in Madison, Wis., on Monday staking a claim to assorted Spawn characters, according to the Associated Press. The litigation began in 2002, when Gaiman sued McFarlane, who created the Spawn series in 1992. Gaiman, who wrote an issue of Spawn for McFarlane, alleged that he deserved credit for helping create three characters. A jury eventually agreed with Gaiman, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed a judgment that Gaiman is the co-owner of copyrights for the characters in question. Lawyers for McFarlane and Gaiman have since been trying to figure out how much McFarlane owes Gaiman. In the meantime, Gaiman’s lawyers at Foley & Lardner are seeking co-ownership rights for an additional three characters, arguing that those three are derivative of the three Gaiman co-created. On Monday, Judge Barbara Crabb heard from both sides. Gaiman argued that similarities between the six characters are not incidental. McFarlane, however, said that they’re similar only in that they belong to the same Spawn universe. McFarlane’s lawyers at Bryan Cave, moreover, assert in court filings that Gaiman is improperly leveraging the proceedings before Judge Crabb to make new ownership claims. “A quasi-administrative, post-judgment accounting procedure is not the proper time or place, and this court should reject Mr. Gaiman’s effort to obtain by way of motion what he has never sought by way of trial,” they wrote. Judge Crabb gave the parties until June 25 to submit additional briefing on the issue. This story originally appeared in The Am Law Litigation Daily, a Corporate Counsel sibling publication.

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