Greedy DC Wants to Keep the Minx

DC published an 8-issue series called The Minx in 1998. Now an indy comic called Minx is being hassled by DC over the name.

This isn’t the first time DC has had title conflicts, but in the cases I remember, DC was on the other side, using names that other people had already established. For instance, GirlFrenzy, a UK zine, began publishing in 1991. That didn’t stop DC from using the title for an event week in 1998.

Then there’s Zero Hour. DC’s series was 1994, when Patty Leidy already had her strip of the same name running.

Sure, you can argue that DC may not have known about such small press projects… but similarly, you can also argue that DC has abandoned the title in the 8 years since they’ve done nothing with the comic.

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19 Responses to “Greedy DC Wants to Keep the Minx”

  1. Dan Coyle Says:

    Wasn’t Minx also owned by Peter Milligan and Sean Phillips? Did they buy the trademark from them or something?

  2. Lea Says:

    There was also Femme Noir, DC’s “girl” comics line.

  3. Fabricari Says:

    I’ve only read a little on trademark laws, and I know it’s pretty interpretive – usually by a judge, but I was under the understanding that you have to: 1. Keep a trademark active, and 2. You can’t really trade mark common words, like “Minx.” It makes me sad that lawyers can scare people into letting go of their titles.

  4. Jer Says:

    Of course you can trademark common words – if not, why would Apple Computers and Apple Music always be going round and round in court every few years? IIRC, the rules for periodical names are even more relaxed than for other trademarks as far as what is allowed to be traidmarked or not, since it needs to be seen as distinctive from other magazines, not from just any other product on the market. (Of course, IANAL, so if this is wrong please let me know).

    And “keeping a trademark active” in the magazine business apparently means publishing something within a gap of up to X years (where X is some number that is really too long, from what I can tell). I’ve been told that this is why Marvel Comics brings out a Captain Marvel comic book periodically without fail, no matter how well or poorly it happens to do in the market, so they can point to it and maintain the trademark on magazines with the name “Captain Marvel” and keep that mark out of DC’s hands.

  5. Lyle Says:

    Ideally, trademarks provide protection to consumers as well as IP owners, as the most obvious trademark infringements are trying to fool customers into buying a product they think is something else, its false advertising that takes advantage of the time and effort of a competitor to build customer goodwill.

    This, on the other hand, just comes off as an underhanded way of trying to hurt competitors who don’t pose much of a danger.

    Sigh. Anybody want to start a pool on how long until DC introduces a superheroine named The Minx? (Who will later serve as fodder in whatever “big” event that comes along.)

  6. James Schee Says:

    Wasn’t Tokyopop’s name Minx something? I seem to remember a manga anthology with that in the title some years back anyway.

  7. Kevin Lighton Says:

    Tokyopop used to be Mixx Publications, which may be what you’re thinking of.

  8. Johanna Says:

    James, you may be thinking about Mink, which was a Tokyopop manga series.

  9. Bob Says:

    Milligan and Phillips owned the trademark to the title back when it was published, so DC is probably contractually obligated to defend that trademark on their behalf. I’m not sure how that makes them “greedy”. I’d think less of DC if they didn’t defend the trademark in this case, assuming it’s properly filed and still valid.

  10. Johanna Says:

    It’s greedy because there is no current DC product I can buy called the Minx — no comics, no collection, no merchandise. The impression is not that they’re protecting a trademark, but throwing their weight around to stop someone else from calling a book the same thing as a now-unused title.

  11. Shane Says:

    “The impression is not that they’re protecting a trademark, but throwing their weight around to stop someone else from calling a book the same thing as a now-unused title. ”

    It’s not greedy and it’s not wrong to hold on to a trademark even if it’s not used currently. You trademark something so you CAN use it when you WANT to use it. Not so anyone can come along later and decide it’s a good name for their series. If you don’t want the name then you let the trademark expire. I’d say DC is in the right here.

    If Patty Leidy had Zero Hour trademarked at the time of DC’s publication fo Zero Hour then DC would have been in the wrong there. If Patty Leidy didn’t have that name protected, then DC had every right to use that name.

    Near-Mint Heroes isn’t trademarked so if someone decided to make a series on that name I wouldn’t have a leg to stand on. They could call their comic that, trademark the name and send me a cease and desist letter. Would I be a little upset, maybe, but I wouldn’t fight it because they would be within their rights. Wouldn’t they?

  12. David Oakes Says:

    Now unused, but what about tomorrow? The industry is TPB crazy at the moment, and a finite eight issues about a female protagonist would seem to be a prime candidate.

    (I think most corporations do abuse the notion of trademark. I think DC’s claim on “superhero” is flat out immoral, and should not be defensible in any reasonable system of justice. But if Milligan and Phillips do own the character, they are ultimately culpable, not DC. And frankly, a blode-haired punk-ish heroine *with the same name* is exactly the type of thing that Trademark *is* supposed to protect the consumer from.)

  13. Johanna Says:

    Shane, according to the US Patent & Trademark Office FAQ, “Federal registration is not required to establish rights in a trademark. Common law rights arise from actual use of a mark. Generally, the first to either use a mark in commerce or file an intent to use application with the Patent and Trademark Office has the ultimate right to use and registration. However, there are many benefits of federal trademark registration.”

    So if I’m reading that correctly, your use of Near-Mint Heroes (or Patty’s of Zero Hour) whether or not it’s officially registered is sufficient to establish your rights. But I’m not a lawyer.

  14. Johanna Says:

    David, DC only does collections of forgotten properties if another publisher announces plans to first. buh dump ba

  15. Lyle Says:

    Now unused, but what about tomorrow? The industry is TPB crazy at the moment, and a finite eight issues about a female protagonist would seem to be a prime candidate.

    If so, DC would be putting out a bad product. The series had a lot of promise, but extremely low sales got it cut shorter than most struggling Vertigo titles get. A collection of The Minx would contain seven parts setup and a rushed conclusion that didn’t explain all the surreal mysteries the series brought up.

    Shane, from my little understanding of trademark, if someone came out with a Near Mint Heroes comic, you could claim trademark infringement, providing you have the time and money to pursue it. The important thing to establish is that the comic leaves people thinking that you’re involved, that readers of the Near Mint Heroes comics blog are being tricked (accidentally or purposefully) into buying the Near Mint Heroes comic book because they think they’re supporting your work. In that case, the comic is causing confusion in the marketplace.

    That, of course, is my layman’s understanding. A legal mind could probably correct me quite a bit.

  16. Bob Says:

    I still think it’s admirable of DC to honour their contract with creators, especially given cases where they haven’t done so in the past. And while there may not be any Minx stuff for you to buy, you don’t know if it’s been licensed to foreign publishers, optioned for a movie or whatever else.

  17. James Schee Says:

    Yeah both you and Kevin were right, I guess I just mixed them up.

  18. patty Leidy Says:

    regarding this thread,,,I did indeed have a copywrite on my Comic strip ZERO HOUR,WAYYY before DC came in with their version…I also had an inpromptu meeting with some DC reps at a Dragon COn Convention the year of their release of zero hour..
    some of them professed to being fans of mine….we bandied about the topic of the title useage…in so many words I was told,after saying I did indeed use the title first, they “had more money and lawyers”…
    uneasy laughter followed and they said they had no problem with me, since I was such small potatoes and there was no confusion between the two products..I agreed,,they said as long as I didn’t draw super heros..I replyed “o.k and as long as you all keep being unfunny!”
    more uneasy laughter…
    so now I see their Zero hour is gone…and mine..well…let’s say I have been on hiatus for a while but I am STILL drawing it in some form or another…
    I have every intention to use and always use MY title of MY comic..no matter what…

    good luck to them I say…
    thanks
    patty leidy

  19. January 2011 Previews: Indie Month, Recommendations, and Snark » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] in 2006, DC sued Andrea Grant over a comic called the Minx. At the time, I thought it was because DC had put out a 1998 series of that name — but now we [...]

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