Spider-Man made his way into a Supreme Court decision today. In a case pitting inventor Stephen Kimble against Marvel Entertainment over an expired toy patent, the Court ruled to uphold a 50-year-old patent ruling that let the comics company stop sending royalty payments to Kimble — and they had a little bit of fun in reaching their decision.
In law, with great power must come great responsibility
Kimble v. Marvel Entertainment concerned Kimble's webshooter invention, a glove that shot foam string from its palm much like Spider-Man, which he patented in 1991. Marvel purchased the patent in 1997, and agreed to pay Kimble in royalties indefinitely. However, after discovering the 1964 Supreme Court decision Brulotte v. Thys, which determined that royalties need not be paid after a patent expires, the company stopped paying Kimble in 2010. Kimble thus sued Marvel, and brought the case to the Supreme Court late last year.
However, the highest court in the land ruled in favor of Marvel, stating that Kimble's arguments to view his patent in light of modern competition law were overall invalid. However, Justice Elena Kagan peppered the Court's decision with a few fun references to superpowers, the '60s Spider-Man animated series, and one of comics' most famous adages:
Justice Samuel Alito, who offered the dissenting opinion, failed to say "It's Clobberin' Time" when arguing to overturn the Brulotte decision. We feel it was a missed opportunity.