Eight jurors will decide this fall if Marvel actually owns the copyright to Ghost Rider or not. That was the order (read it here) issued today by a federal judge who set trial for November 4. The decision by District Judge Katherine Forrest in NYC comes just over two weeks after the Second Court of Appeals overturned a 2011 ruling of hers in Marvel’s favor in the legal battle with former freelancer Gary Friedrich over the fiery motorcycle-riding superhero. Marvel’s lawyers indicated today in a courtroom conference meeting on the case that while they will not challenge the Appeals Court decision, they would seek to have the case handled without a jury in a motion to be filed at a later date.
Friedrich first filed his suit against Marvel, Columbia TriStar, Relativity Media and others back in 2007, claiming that he owned the renewal term copyrights on the character and his origin story. The writer came up with the initial comic book idea for the Ghost Rider character 41 years ago, though Marvel claims it was part of a collaborative process. Friedrich filed his suit the very year the first Ghost Rider movie starring Nicolas Cage came out. In late 2011, just as the second Ghost Rider movie was about to be released, Judge Forrest ruled for Marvel and the other defendants. The company might have thought that the case was over, but Friedrich didn’t accept the ruling and appealed. The case was argued in front of the federal appeals court in late February, leading to the June 11 decision allowing Friedrich to take the case to trial. Of course, November is a long way off, and the two sides might reach a settlement before then. The judge today also ordered the parties to appear before her for a final pretrial conference on October 30. Charles Krammer and Joe Schneider of Riezman Berger PC represent Friedrich. Randi Singer and James Quinn of Weil Gotshal & Manges and Haynes & Boones’ David Fleischer represent Marvel Enterprises and the other defendants.