Someone call She-Hulk, we’ve got a case on our hands. Avengers legal team assemble!
Tuesday saw the home video release of Marvel’s The Avengers film, quite possibly one of the best darn superhero movies… Ever. And if you all didn’t know beforehand, the special edition box set of the movie and all the other Marvel movies leading up to it was going to be quite something. In addition to six movies, the ten disc set was going to also contain four discs of bonus features galore, S.H.I.E.L.D files and even a model Tesseract all for a cool $150 if you pre-ordered. Sounds like a major deal right? Unfortunately we’re going to have to wait a bit longer.
Rimowa, the German suitcase company that gave permission to Marvel to use their suitcase for the Tesseract in the film filed a lawsuit because the packaging of the special edition looked just like the briefcase used in the film and of course the popular luggage giant did not grant permission for this consumer replica to be created only for its use in the movie.
I’m not going to lie, but this debacle is seriously silly. Purchasers of The Avengers: Phase One box set aren’t in the business of trying to find a bootleg luggage solution in a DVD collection. When I consider the idea of bootlegs, piracy, and copyright infringement, my first thought is intent. Is Rimowa losing money for what should be theirs? Their signature titanium metal suitcases? When people create bootleg knock-offs, it’s usually to cash-in on the success of the real thing by creating an imitation. (i.e Chinatown shops) But I can hardly say that Marvel and Disney were throwing a “free fancy briefcase” as part of the limited edition nor do I think a DVD box will be used for anything other than holding the DVDs or possibly as a cosplay prop.
This leaves a few more options left, sabotage and defamation (which we’ll rule out) and theft on an intellectual level. Perhaps there’s a very good chance that Rimowa isn’t concerned that there will be millions of DVD sets unfit to carry on vacation flying around but that the fact those DVD boxes carry the very visage of their IP. Agree or not, in other cases, I can see why a company would act. Once Disney’s frightening legal team tackled a nursery down because they used images of Mickey Mouse to promote it, which they claimed would create false connections between the nursery and Disney, and for the same cash loss reasons of a Chinese knock-off. However, in this case, I fail to see how a false connection between Rimowa and Marvel would be created or how the idea of the Rimowa design was being mistreated. They did give permission for a prop, the rights to see a Rimowa design in the context of Marvel’s The Avengers is there, so on the idea level that’s a done deal, Marvel and Disney are not stepping out of line for displaying a Rimowa idea with a Marvel idea consistent with proper intentions.
I’ll admit though, maybe I’m missing something and somewhere this is a big deal. Somewhere in Rimowa’s HQ, the moment photos of the set hit, there was a code red with a huge frenzy that somehow something absolutely devastating will happen should this collection see the light of day. That or they saw dollar signs, but I’ll refrain from such a blase argument. Personally, with my limited business knowledge, I would have applauded the replica briefcase. Knowing full well what diehard fans would do, they would buy Rimowa brand luggage by the boatload. Just look at what happened in all the product placement for K-On! Pens, bowls, cameras, and even guitars flying off shelves. Everybody wins.
I really think this incident says something about how we treat our ideas these days. How even a bratty teenager will slap “original character, don’t steal” on his Sonic fan character and treat it like a holy sacred object. It’s one thing to be protective of what you own and make sure it gets treated with respect, but what happens when we lay on red tape and mount a legal fortress? Nobody wants to share their ideas, everyone’s too afraid of idea-theft that nothing gets done and we have a bunch of folks sitting on their hands or preying to take legal cheap-shots at other people and companies for good money. For example, Apple’s lawsuit against Samsung didn’t curry well with the general public and to add insult to injury members of the Apple camp were none too pleased with the “innovative” iOS 6.
If anything there is a silver lining in this inconvenience. Disney and Amazon to the rescue. Disney and Marvel stated that in response to the delay, they would put even more extra content into the DVD set while they redesign the package and destroy all the replicas. In the meantime, Amazon stated that anyone who preordered the special box set in a certain timeframe would get a free regular DVD+Blu-Ray copy of the movie while they wait. Not a bad response if I don’t say so myself. At least we have the movie in the audience’s hands, the show must go on.
Join me next time when I review Manhattan’s best shawarma stands.