When Montreal-based comic book company founders Ben and Raymond Lai watched the 2018 Marvel film “Avengers: Infinity War”, they said they knew they would have to sue Marvel Entertainment – again.
The Lai brothers, founder of Horizon Comics Productions, claim that the armor worn by Iron Man in the film is also similar to the outfit worn by Maxwell, a character he developed for his Radix comic series in the early 2000s.
“After legal disputes and substantial sums of money, they continue to mimic our characters,” Raymond Lai said in a statement to the Canadian press. “This does significant harm to us and impacts our ability to make a living as artists. Clearly, this repeated behavior cannot be accepted.”
The brothers filed a lawsuit in 2013 against Marvel Entertainment and its owner, The Walt Disney Company. He claimed that Marvel’s “Iron Man 3” poster looked like a suit for another Radix character Caliban in an outfit worn by Iron Man. However, the brothers lost that legal case.
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Ben and Raymond Lai say that Marvel has copied their designs again. And their lawyers say they have a case because the brothers’ claims include new Marvel costumes in various Marvel films.
On April 22, attorneys at the Montreal Comic Book Company filed a motion in Quebec Superior Court against Marvel Entertainment and Disney for alleged copyright infringement. They say that Marvel’s Ant-Man, Wasp, and Iron Man characters have body armor similar to the armor they make.
The plaintiffs are yet to sue for compensatory damages, and they are asking the court to issue a permanent injunction against Marvel and Disney “to end this willful and persistent infringement pursuant to the lawsuit”.
Many of Marvel and Disney’s interview requests were not returned. Not all charges have been proved in court by the Lai brothers.
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Julie Desroyers with Fassen Martino Dumoulin, one of the brothers’ lawyers, says the perceived similarities between her client’s work and the Marvel characters are causing a lot of headaches. She said that when Ben and Raymond Lai present their work to the public, people often think that they copied Marvel.
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“It’s the other way around,” she said in a recent interview.
The brothers formed their own comic book company in 1995. In 2001 and 2002, he published a three-volume comic book series called Radix.
“It was with Radix that we were known and our work was recognized in the American comic book industry,” Raymond said in the statement. “We’ve made a name for ourselves.”
Around March 2002, Marvel’s editor-in-chief, Chester Bror Cebulski, approached the Lai brothers for their unique, highly futuristic designs – but they turned down the offer.
Sue said that around the same time, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology copied images from the Radix series for a $ 50 million research grant, now the Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies.
The lawsuit states that MIT issued a public apology to the Lai brothers, however, acknowledging the unauthorized use of the images, the lawsuit said.
“We decided not to take legal action against MIT because they publicly apologized and admitted their mistake,” Raymond wrote. “But with Marvel, this is a repeated violation.”
The brothers’ company gained notoriety with the MIT dispute and Marvel was approached once again. In September 2002, the brothers agreed to be part of a new creative team and worked for Marvel’s Thor and X-Men comics, Sue said.
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In the brothers’ 2013 case against Marvel, Justice Paul Otken of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York concluded that there were no violations due to “distinct characteristics between the characters”.
But according to the new lawsuit, new superhero organizations created by Marvel had specific characteristics identified to justify the brothers’ claims being rejected. The suit alleges that “many striking similarities exist between the new Iron Man suit depicted in Infinity War and the suit worn by the Radix character Maxwell.”
“In short, not only are the distinctive features taken by Justice Otken in American no longer present in the Infinity War suit, but many additional equally similar features were added to the Radix Suite.”
The brothers say that Marvel and Disney are “intentionally” creating costumes that resemble their Radix character “knowing that Horizon’s means of defending its copyright were scarce.”
“This behavior is repressive, malicious and highly reprehensible,” the lawsuit said. “It affects the public’s sense of decency.”
© 2021 Canadian Press