Ahead of what is sure to be a profitable weekend for DC Comics, the comic book titans have also managed to steer clear of another court case involving Batman's iconic transport.
The Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal on the part of Mark Towle, who creates replica Batmobiles based on the 1966 and 1989 iterations of the Caped Crusader's car. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had ruled last year in favor of D.C. Comics' claim that the vehicle's quasi-bat-like appearance and high-tech gadgets that have become synonymous with the car entitle it to copyright protection.
Towle argued that the Batmobile's design was merely functional, i.e.utilitarian, rather than an artistic expression. He also argued that the Batmobile has not always maintained the same characteristics throughout its history. The court disagreed with Towle's claims, in an opinion written by Judge Sandra Ikuta:
Originally introduced in the Batman comic books in 1941, the Batmobile is a fictional, high-tech automobile that Batman employs as his primary mode of transportation. The Batmobile has varied in appearance over the years, but its name and key characteristics as Batman’s personal crimefighting vehicle have remained consistent. Over the past eight decades, the comic books have continually depicted the Batmobile as possessing bat-like external features, ready to leap into action to assist Batman in his fight against Gotham’s most dangerous villains, and equipped with futuristic weaponry and technology that is “years ahead of anything else on wheels.”
The opinion also goes on to note that previous decisions have held that copyright procection would be applicable to characters that are "especially distinctive."So while this doesn't open the door for every character in a work of fiction to be eligible for copyright, it does leave the possibility that some of our most iconic may be kept from being copied.