Superhero Intellectual Property – In brightest day, in blackest night, no infringer shall escape their sight
Superheroes have armor to protect their bodies, and gadgets to fight their enemies, but what protects them from impostors, what can they use to fight off infringers? A superhero’s intellectual property consists of everything from their insignia to their gadgets and even their catch phrases. In some cases intellectual property protection safeguards the means by which they obtained their powers and their very DNA.
“There’s been a mix up in the lab!” “The experiment can’t be stopped!” “Who’s that on the test field?!” “Are we missing a spider?” “Watch out for that kid!” So many superheroes start their crime fighting careers as accident prone individuals who fall victim to an industrial waste spill or a top-secret experiment gone awry. These accidents could lead to more than just superhuman abilities as toxic torts could mean big bucks for our heroes.
In a dark alley behind a theater a wealthy couple is walking with their son. Two figures emerge from the shadows; one man with a gun demands money and jewelry while the other stands watch by the street. There’s a struggle; two shots ring out and the couple fall to the ground. Just as the robber is about to pull the trigger on the boy a costumed superhero intervenes deftly subduing the man with the gun. After making sure the boy is alright he gives chase to the lookout and apprehends him a few blocks away. In situations like these there is no question that our hero saved a life but what right did he have to do so? What amount of force was he privileged in using, and can the criminal now bring a lawsuit against him for assault or battery?
Vigilantes forgo the protections of working with the State allowing them to operate without many of the restrictions that accompany civil liberties. They are outside the system; the system doesn’t work; they have rejected the system to pursue their own justice. This freedom at the expense of their quarry is highlighted by a discussion of invasion of privacy. Unlike government actors, evidence obtained by a vigilante in violation of Constitutional protections is not excluded from trial, in fact, Constitutional protections are not even implicated without a government actor.