Superman vs. Shop Owner
DC Comics, owner of the trademarks to popular heroes such as Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, initially filed its complaint on September 25, 2012, claiming that “Defendants have ignored DC’s lawful demands and continue to utilize the infringing promotions in conjunction with the infringing barbershops.” The complaint raised claims of trademark infringement in violation of the Lanham Act, claims under the Anti-cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act, and unfair competition claims under Florida law. Reginal Jones, owner of Supermen Fades To Fros and Superman Pro Barbershop, both of which are located in Florida, incorporated the famous Superman logo into the signs outside of his shops, the clothing and capes that the barbers wear, and vehicle wrap advertising. DC Comics’ alleged main concern was that Jones’ use of their trademarks would cause confusion and deception, leading people to think that he was somehow affiliated with them. DC Comics originally sought the destruction of all infringing materials, the surrender of Jones’ domain name, and the cancelation of all business names containing the Superman trade or service marks.
In his response to the lawsuit, Jones stated, “DC Comics has decided to pick on me because they know I am a small local barber and cannot afford the big lawyers they can. I am asking that you look very carefully at what they are trying to do and not let them take advantage of me.” Jones represented himself throughout the matter.
While it seems that before the settlement Jones was shaping up for a David and Goliath kind of argument, would that have worked in this case? On the one hand, the main issue is two signs, which are located in two small town barbershops and might not affect DC Comics. On the other hand, Jones deliberately used this Superman sign, and as DC Comics noted in their complaint they “never at any time authorized defendants to utilize the infringing promotions in conjunction with any barbershop business and/or the sale or offer for sale of hair groom services.” Therefore, it seems as though they were legitimately just trying to protect their assets.