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DC Comics wins Batmobile lawsuit

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DC Comics has won its copyright lawsuit against the makers of a line of Batmobile replicas.

A federal judge ruled in favour of the publisher in its dispute with Gotham Garage owner Ben Towle on the grounds that the iconic car is in fact a "copyrightable character".

Adam West and Burt Ward's Batmobile

© Rex Features / 20thC.Fox/Everett



DC sued Towle in 2011, claiming he was violating its intellectual property by selling unlicensed replicas of 1966 and 1989 Batmobiles.

The Gotham Garage owner argued that the Batmobile, being a vehicle, is exempt from copyright on the grounds that it is a "useful article", but the court was unconvinced.

"In all of the fictional works, the Batmobile is deployed as Batman's mode of transportation. However, the Batmobile is entirely distinguishable from an ordinary automobile," The Hollywood Reporter quotes judge Ronald Lew as saying.

"The Batmobile is a fictional character tied to the fictional Batman character. The Batmobile is a crime fighting weapon and used to display the Batman persona.

Tim Burton's revamped Batmobile

© Rex Features / Everett Collection



"The Batmobile, and the so-called functional elements associated with it, is not a useful object in the real world, and incorporates fantasy elements that do not appear on real-world vehicles.

"The 'functional elements' - e.g., the fictional torpedo launchers, the Bat-scope, and anti-fire systems - are only 'functional' to the extent that they helped Batman fight crime in the fictional Batman television series and movies. Thus, the Batmobile's usefulness is a construct."

Gotham Garage's fully-operational Batmobile replicates took more than a year to build and sell for $90,000.

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