The Wall Street Journal reports that Edgar Rice Burroughs Inc, a company set up by Edgar Rice Burroughs and financially benefitting his descendants, is suing Dynamite and Dynamic Forces over their publication of Lord Of The Jungle and Warlord Of Mars comics, over trademark and copyright issues involving Tarzan and John Carter Of Mars.
Both comics, and their spinoffs, are careful not to use the words Tarzan or John Carter in their titles or their marketing, which is the kind of thing that trademark law protects – the stories may be public domain, but the trademarks are not. But then the stories may only be public domain in the US…
Firstly, ERB Inc makes claims to the phrases Lord Of The Jungle and Warlord Of Mars as part of the longer Tarzan Lord Of The Jungle and John Carter Warlord Of Mars trademarks, as well as Dejah Thoris and Barsoom trademarks. And secondly, while the stories may be public domain in the US, the books have been distributed and sold in the UK, which has different copyright rules, and where the original stories remain in copyright to Edgar Rice Burroughs.
Also included in the suit are Savage Tales Entertainment, LLC, one of the many companies that Dynamite's Nick Barrucci has been involved with, with the aim of securing rights to public domain properties, such as Jungle Girl and Re-Animator. Savage Tales Entertainment LLC are listed as the owner of the Lord Of The Jungle trademark in the comics' indicia, and have trademark applications in for Evil Ernie properties, Peter Cannon, Thunderbolt, Human Fly, Charlton Comics and more. The suit states that Barrucci is the owner of Savage Tales Entertainment LLC. It has been long suspected that Barrucci owns this, and similar companies, but he has refused to comment on the matter.
The suit also cites the deals ERB have entered into with Marvel and Dark Horse over John Carter and Tarzan comic books, and alleges how the Dynamite publications harm these deals. And that Nick Barrucci made approaches to ERB over publishing said comic books, only to be rebuffed.
Lawyer Peter Levine, who has worked with Nick Barrucci over the Kirby-based comics, writes in the Washington Post comments, corrects the original article, stating that the suit is over trademark not copyright. While the blog changed its reportage, it is worth pointing out that suit does also specify copyright infringement in the UK.
Here is that suit in full.