Your car can be a copyrighted character. Ok, not really. But the Batmobile is. And other cars in films may be as well. DC Comics sued Gotham Garage for copyright infringement alleging that the custom “Batmobile” cars and car modification kits manufactured by Gotham Garage violated DC Comics’ copyrights. Gotham countered that cars are not subject to copyright protection and that the two models manufactured by Gotham had been subject to design patents that expired.
The district court held that, despite the design patents, the two models of Batmobile were in fact protected by copyright law because the Batmobile was a character in the Batman comics, television shows, and movies. The Ninth Circuit agreed and announced a new test for determining whether something is a character subject to copyright protection. The case sparked headlines not just because of the popularity of Batman, but because of the unique holding that a car, which cannot normally be the subject of copyright protection, can be a copyrightable character.
Join Kandis Koustenis and Jennifer Atkins as they discuss the implications of the new Ninth Circuit test and the interplay between patent, copyright, and trademark law highlighted by this case and others like it.
Photo credit: Gideon Wright