While George Barris is preparing to sell his original 1966 Batmobile at the upcoming Barrett-Jackson auction in Scottsdale, another custom builder is attempting to stave off a copyright lawsuit. Mark Towle has been building Batmobile replicas through his business, Gotham Garage, for years, and has sold off two versions of the famous '66 TV car and at least one recreation of Bruce Wayne's ride from the 1989 film. His efforts have earned him a two-year legal battle with Warner Brothers subsidiary DC Comics, with the publisher claiming its copyright protection extends to "the overall look and feel" of the Batmobile and that Towle has violated those copyrights.

Towle's attorney, meanwhile, argues that DC Comics is attempting to rewrite copyright law by applying the protections to automobiles, which "do not qualify as sculptural works and are thus not eligible for copyright protection." If a judge decides the design elements found on the Batmobile are useful, the case will likely go Towle's way, as functional elements cannot be protected under US copyright law. But DC Comics contends the Batmobile is intellectual property and that Towle has profited from the company's efforts.

The custom builder says that a victory for DC Comics could "completely upend existing copyright law," and open the door for manufacturers to copyright any number of useful elements found on their products. What's more, anyone building a tribute to famous cars from the television or movie industries could find themselves in legal hot water.


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  • 43 Comments
      • 2 Years Ago
      [blocked]
      Michael
      • 2 Years Ago
      Imagine the ensuing hilarity if DC Comics wins, and Apple decides to extend their rounded rectangle patent to auotmobiles (patent no. D670,286) .
        Tom
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Michael
        Uh, then VW would be in big trouble? (Replace with your idea of the most boring/rounded-rectangle-producing automaker.)
      Andre Neves
      • 2 Years Ago
      If it were not for all the replicas in circulation, that Batmobile wouldn't have gotten the recognition it has until now. Kind of the same way with the General Lee. They should be grateful instead of greedy.
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Andre Neves
        [blocked]
        johnbravo6
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Andre Neves
        These dinosaurs are losing their grip. The open source and freely distributed markets are gaining market share while the old monopoly men just keep turning to courts and politicians to pay their bills.
        Gordon Chen
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Andre Neves
        That's true they should be grateful but WB is obligated to protect their intellectual property as well. I'm not a legal person, but I think if you can lose your trademarks if you don't actively protect it. I hope both parties come to an agreement both would benefit from.
      clquake
      • 2 Years Ago
      Wouldn't the 10 yr limit be up by now?
      kuntknife
      • 2 Years Ago
      Does that also affect Bieber's awful CTS-V "batmobile"?
      Randy
      • 2 Years Ago
      Unless they patent parts they are SOL
      • 2 Years Ago
      [blocked]
        • 2 Years Ago
        [blocked]
          Tom
          • 2 Years Ago
          Haha right, as if you could sell a "Time-Travel-Themed DeLorean" and get away with it. When everything else is stolen and clearly recognizable, it doesn't matter what you call it.
        cdwrx
        • 2 Years Ago
        You would need a license in order to market it as "Batmobile" or as "Star Trek". Those names are copyrighted. Their logos are copyrighted. Clothing styles are clearly not copyrighted. If they were, Levi's would be bigger than Apple.
      Fred Stans
      • 2 Years Ago
      Gordon, you have no idea what you are talking about..Just because Dc Comics says they own it does not make it so..and you cant copyright a car ..Why dont you look up what they really own,or dont for that matter ..Dc Comics is in the wrong and there is at least 4 other companies building that same cars rightnow ,and my friend this has been going on since the early 80's where were they to protect their rights then ?? Do your homework Dc comic did gave a Licence to a company Fiberglass Freaks and in 2 years have not delivered one car ,not one. and have had many cars turned back in for defects..See maybe Dc Comics should look in their own camp..
        Mark B. Racop
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Fred Stans
        Fred Stans, you are confused about MANY things regarding the legalities surrounding the 1966 Batmobile and the FACTS about Fiberglass Freaks. We have completed our seventeenth car and have four more in construction. Taking care of our customers is our top priority. For you or anyone that is curious, please call our office manager to set up a tour today: 574-722-3237. You can see with your own eyes what we do and how we do it.
      kevsflanagan
      • 2 Years Ago
      I think DC's main problem is the fact he is selling these not just making them. Be one thing if he was doing it for himself or doing a commissioned piece of work but if he is making these, marketing these, and selling these as Batmobiles then I have to agree with DC he is in violation of copyright.
      donloki
      • 2 Years Ago
      DC Comics and Warner Brothers do not sell Batmobile replicas, and until someone starts robbing banks driving batmobiles I think and hope a judge tosses this case out on the grounds of being bullshit.
        P.F. Bruns
        • 1 Year Ago
        @donloki
        I must strenuously disagree: if you go to any store that has a sizable toy section, you will find Batmobile replicas from time to time. They won't be life size, obviously, but they are replicas. But by your logic, DC should also be out of luck if they don't agree to license, say, coffee mugs. After all, DC doesn't manufacture them or contract them for manufacture them, so if they suddenly stopped licensing them, that must mean we would all be able to do it, right? Wrong.
      Joe D. Weaver
      • 2 Years Ago
      I don't see the problem here... its not as if DC comics is going to start making replica batmobiles. They aren't losing any profits from this because they don't do business in the auto industry. However I can see Gotham Garage having to pay royalties... that would be fair. But to say they can't build them at all is wrong.
        Charles Houghton
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Joe D. Weaver
        But there is a company named fibreglass freaks that makes officially licensed 1966 batmobile replicas so they are in fact losing potential licensing fees.
        Tom
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Joe D. Weaver
        Copyright also means the right to control the use of their character. Just because they're not in the wall-socket-cover business doesn't mean I can go out and start selling Batman wall-socket-covers. The value of that character (and associated "brand") depends on control of the related products.
      zoom_zoom_zoom
      • 2 Years Ago
      That front looks like a Hyundai design.
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