Image via GothamGarage.net
Yesterday, a federal judge ruled in favor of Warner Bros/DC Comics in their case against automobile customizer Mark Towle, owner of the California-based Gotham Garage. His crime: producing unauthorized replicas of the Adam West and Michael Keaton-era Batmobiles. The matter was first brought before legal council in May 2011.
The Hollywood Reporter mentions that the Judge’s ruling that the vehicle was a “copyrighted character” negated Towle’s “useful article” defense. Apparently things that have “utilitarian aspects” have been protected in the past; both Batmobiles could hardly be considered utilitarian, though. It is their unique characteristics that influenced the Judge’s decision.
The ruling states that Towle owes DC $750,000 per Batmobile and that he’ll need to destroy each infringement (I guess he gets to keep his semi-generic “Gotham Garage” name). Does that mean he’ll have to go repossess the ones already purchased by rich geeks? I cannot imagine that they’ll take too kindly to loosing something that they paid around $90,000 for. He’d probably wouldn’t even be able to get close to it because of all their giant security robots.
What will happen to other custom auto shops? Will they be incapable of recreating other comic book vehicles? Stay tuned. Same bat-time, same bat-blog.TM