Warner Bros may have won the larger legal war over who owns the rights to Superman but they seem to be losing their battle against the lawyer who sought to retain the copyright for the heirs of the hero’s creators. Today attorney Marc Toberoff was freed from paying attorney fees for the case (read order here) and had two tortious interference claims against him knocked out by a U.S. District judge (read order here). The court denied WB and its subsidiary DC Comics the $500,000 in attorney’s fees that they wanted as a pound of flesh from Toberoff for the long running case. And Judge Otis Wright made it very clear he believed the action by WB and DC was personal against the lawyer who represented the estates of Superman co-creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. “What is surprising is DC’s motivation in seeking attorneys’ fees solely against one Defendant. DC’s entire Motion smacks of animus toward Toberoff,” wrote the judge in today’s order. “Punishing Toberoff and Pacific Pictures with a $500,000 attorneys’-fees award would send a clear message to copyright defendants that litigating a claim with good-faith supported defenses is wrong. That is undoubtedly not a message this Court wants to send to Toberoff or others,” he added in the 12-page order.
Related: ‘Superman Rights Belong To Warner Bros, Court Asserts
In a separate order granting Toberoff and the heirs partial summary judgment over the tortious interference claims, Wright agreed with the defendants. The judge said that statute of limitation laws meant WB/DC waited too long to file its 2010 copyright interference suit in the matter. “The point here is that DC had more than enough knowledge by November 2006 to have tickled a suspicion that its business relationship with the Shusters was being tampered with. It was then—and not when DC gathered the smoking-gun evidence supporting each element of its cause of action—that it should have filed suit,” said the judge as one example in his order. Wright deferred a ruling on another WB/DC claim based on jurisdiction and because elements of the case are currently on appeal before the Ninth Circuit. While they have essentially proved victorious in the larger sense and can now proceed with the Superman big screen reboot Man Of Steel and other related properties without the threat of any more legal action by the creators’ heirs and estates, this isn’t the first time WB and DC have failed in their efforts to punish Toberoff. Last month, Judge Wright refused the WB and DC Comics bid for sanctions against the lawyer.