The Batmobile is a Character. Wait, What?!?!


1966 Batmobile CopyIn one hand, you are a handy mechanic and builder. In the other, you love Batman. So why not combine both of your loves and start to build replica Batmobiles? That is what one Mark Towle did. Towle built Batmobiles based on the look of the 1960s TV show model and the 1989 Batman movie model for a while.

Enter in the lawyers for Warner Bros. The case goes to court. The defendant, Towle, was represented by Larry Zerner. Zerner was arguing the point that cars are not allowed copyright protection, and that Warner could not claim ownership of a car and Towle was within his rights to continue building the cars. The judge’s decision states that the Batmobile is considered a character and that as a character, the man is infringing on DC’s rights to the character.

The court stated that Warners only had to show that they had the trademark for the Batmobile in any class of products, even something that has nothing to do with automobiles, and then it could be applied to any class of product.

What defines the Batmobile as a character? in the judge’s opinion, “conceptual seperability” comes into play. The judge stated that conceptual seperability means that “…a pictorial, graphic or sculptural feature “can stand on its own as a work of art traditionally conceived, and . . . the useful article in which it is embodied would be equally useful without it.” In other words, you can take the Batmobile out of the comic book world, put it in a TV show or movie, and the distinctive look of the Batmobile makes it something completely different from a car to the point where you could take engine out of the Batmobile and it would still be functional as something that helps Batman fight crime.

So who created the Batmobile? The first appearance of what is called the Batmobile is from Detective Comics #27, the same as Batman’s first appearance. In the comic, Batman is shown driving a red vehicle that isn’t called the Batmobile, but is referred to as his car. This is a different car from the one that Bruce Wayne is seen driving in the comic, but they both share a distinctive red color.

So what does this mean for anyone looking to design an invisible jet? There may be some time before Wonder Woman’s signature invisible jet needs to go to court to be designated a character by a judge as well.