It’s a battle of superhero proportions.
Or rather, it’s about who gets to lay claim to the term “superhero” in the first place.
That’s the case for Vancouver realtor and self-proclaimed “Real Estate Superhero” Ian Brett, who received a letter from DC Comics last week threatening to sue him for trademark infringement over the word ‘Superhero’ as well as other perceived similarities.
“They tried to say I looked like Clark Kent. I don’t see that, maybe Clark Kent’s dad a bit? If I do, it’s not my fault,” Brett said in a statement.
Brett, who uses the alter ego Captain Vancouver, trademarked the name in 2013. And the trademark process went well and passed all legal requirements. That is, until it was advertised and Brett subsequently received a letter from DC Comics.
“We have just become aware of your trademark application for Real Estate Superhero, and the related use of that mark and image, as well as a red and yellow shield design with a red ‘R'”, the letter from the comic book giant read.
“Images noted in our online investigations include those shown below. We have advised our client that the use of Real Estate Superhero, as a trademark, domain name or trade name, the R Shield Design, and any related imagery (such as the iconic SUPERMAN imagery of a shirt being ripped open to reveal a blue outfit with a shield design), infringes our client’s intellectual property rights.”
The letter also includes steps DC would like to see Brett take to resolve the matter, including:
- Withdrawing the application for the Real Estate Superhero application name;
- Ceasing “any and all use of the words Real Estate Superhero, and any and all use of the Superman indicia, including, but not limited to, the blue shirt and R shield design, the iconic Superman pose, and the R Shield Design, alone, or on clothing, in any publicity or promotional materials in any format;”
- Not using – or applying to register – any Superman or other DC Comics indicia, including trademarks, copyright, images or other indicia.
‘Captain Vancouver’ responds
There are some inherent issues with DC’s request, Brett said.
“DC Comics claimed to own the phrase ‘Superhero’ in the USA but… it does not appear that they have ever registered it in Canada,” Brett said. “Regardless… the word ‘superhero’ has become part of everyday language and should be free for all to use and that there are many trademarks that currently use it in Canada.”
Brett added that in the mind of consumers, “there’s no confusing” his real estate superhero with DC Comics products.
“It’s not like I’m calling myself ‘Super Realtor Man’ and running around in an exact replica outfit,” he said. “I’m a real estate superhero called Captain Vancouver. There’s no comparison with Clark Kent or Superman.”
In addition, the Vancouver realtor Brett said DC wants to stop him from the act of ripping his jacket to reveal his superhero shirt and shield under his nautical jacket. And as for the shield on his chest, Brett said it’s a misinterpreted connection.
“My superhero shield is a portmanteau of the authorized Realtor industry logo that all Realtors are entitled to use in their advertising which I inserted into a ‘nautical navigation triangle’, a common navigational tool,” he said. “I’m not using the letter ‘R’ instead of an ‘S’ as claimed.”
Brett said he created his ‘Real Estate Superhero’ persona ‘Captain Vancouver’ as an unofficial city ambassador and in response to daily realtor “shenanigans” that were being reported during the height of the Real Estate boom in Vancouver.
“We live in the third most expensive city in the world where average homes run in the millions,” he said. “There was a lot of greed and some questionable practices that came out of that. I think a lot of them forgot what it was like to provide good old fashion service.”
Brett said that going forward, he might consider changing the shield logo as a compromise.“Even though I felt like mailing them back some of their own kryptonite, I decided to send Superman an olive branch,” he quipped.
Brett told Daily Hive he feels “a bit like David and Goliath” in this situation.
But he’s encouraged by feedback form others regarding his case.
“In the last two days, I’ve had dozens of emails of support [from] as far away as Halifax.”