It’s not the first time a city or location is suing for intellectual property in its name. But it’s probably the first time a major blockbuster has been the target of the lawsuit.
The city of Batman, located in eastern Turkey, is named after the river by the same name that flows into the Tigris. Both the river and the oil-producing city derive their name from the adjoining Bati Raman mountains.
Batman is known around the world for a much more popular comic book character, turned into blockbuster film. The $1billion box office sales for the Dark Knight, the second highest ever, is probably what prompted the suit.
Huseyin Kalkan, the Kurdish mayor of the town, is preparing an interesting statement of claim, including psychological damages. He attributes a number of unsolved murders and a high female suicide rate on the film’s success.
The town is not without controversy, as many of the suicides are attributed to honour killings. Kalkan himself has been jailed for support of the Marxist-Kurdish terrorist organization also operating in northern Iraq, the PKK (Kurdish Workers Party). The Caped Crusader would probably have his hands full in the town that shares his namesake.
Vehbi Kahveci, head of the Intellectual and Industrial Property Rights Commission of the Istanbul Bar, stated that Batman (the character) and its related logos are already registered around the world. Kalkan’s claim is also limitations barred, probably by several decades.
Jonathon M. Seidl of Patrol Magazine said,
…do all the Springfields in the U.S. get to sue FOX and The Simpsons? Or do all the Springfields get to sue one another? Or maybe Hell, Michigan should sue the Devil. Or what about Garfield, New Jersey, Archie, Missouri, or Henry, Illinois?
The case would have a difficult time making a claim at common law (just for fun). It’s unlikely that a character first created in Detective Comics #27 in May 1939 could reasonably foresee any risk of nervous shock to a small obscure town on the other side of the world founded only two years before.
In addition to lack of temporal and spacial proximity, the recent SCC case of Mustapha v. Culligan suggests that a suddenly sensitive, or thin-skulled plaintiff, is not likely to be successful. Yet, Kalkan somehow received damages last year from D.C. Comics for the use of the Batman name.
But s. 61(2) of the Family Law Act does allow an action for loss of companionship. Let’s just hope that Kalkan’s wife is not one of the recently deceased in the town of Batman.