Chad HorwedelThe US Supreme Court is letting stand a lower court ruling that the Batmobile is protected by copyright.
The high court’s move is a blow to Gotham Garage, the maker of Batmobile replica modification kits, and it means car tinkerers must get a license from DC Comics to sell vehicles that look like the one driven by Batman and Robin.
The court did not comment when rejecting (PDF) Gotham Garage’s petition (PDF) for the court to hear its case.
In September, a federal appeals court sided with DC Comics’ suit against Gotham Garage.
“As Batman so sagely told Robin, ‘In our well-ordered society, protection of private property is essential,'” the San Francisco-based 9th US Court of Appeals concluded (PDF).
That wasn’t the first time a Hollywood car was assigned copyright.
The vehicle “Eleanor” from Gone in 60 Seconds prevailed in an IP court battle.
In the end, the Batmobile was protected from copyright because it was not solely a literary character but has “maintained distinct physical and conceptual qualities since its first appearance in the comic books in 1941,” the appeals court ruled.
Attorneys for Mark Towle, the operator of Gotham Garage, told the Supreme court that the appellate decision “impermissibly extended to an inanimate object the copyright protection that is afforded to “characters,” by holding that an automobile, which does not display any personality traits or consistent and widely identifiable physical attributes independent of the context in which it appears in a creative work, is entitled to separate copyright protection.”