In a recent trademark opposition, Marvel has opposed the registration of DIRE WRAITHS by Hasbro. What are Dire Wraiths? What connection do they have to Marvel? Well, the history of this character is a bit more convoluted than Marvel may lead people to believe.

Dire Wraiths come from the ROM: Spaceknight universe which was (seemingly) created by Hasbro. ROM was a toy created by Hasbro and was their first foray into action figures (previously only making board games). Harboro then licensed the character to Marvel to create a comic book (ROM #1). In the comic (and apparently in the action figure’s universe) the Dire Wraiths are the main antagonist.

Marvel has now been using the “Spaceknights” from Galador in other comics, as well as their own spinoff series called Spaceknights #1. Which, ironically enough, was published in 2000 the year before Marvel trademarked “Spaceknights,” a mark which was used to defeat Hasbro’s registration of ROM THE SPACEKNIGHT in 2008. Sneaky, sneaky Marvel…

This brings us back to DIRE WRAITHS. The mark was legitimately registered by Hasbro first. But, in Marvel’s opposition to the mark, they allege confusion with their use of DIRE WRAITHS in the comics. Marvel legitimately created DIRE WRAITHS in connection with a comic named after a character licensed to them by Hasbro. Marvel also subsequently used the Wraiths in other comics including the X-Men and Spider-Man series. Yes, this is confusing. Marvel is alleging that Hasbro’s DIRE WRAITHS will be confused with Marvel’s use of the character even though Hasbro licensed ROM to Marvel to make the comics that created the DIRE WRAITHS? Yeah…

What this comes down to is the original 1979 agreement that Hasbro used to license the ROM character to Marvel. What was included in the license? Are all characters made in connection with a licensed character included in a work made for hire? Was this even a work made for hire (was Marvel licensed to make a comic or were they licensed a singular character)? As you can see, I have several questions and I find it highly unlikely that the USPTO will delve into this. This much is certain: they better figure this out before the maybe planned G.I. Joe, Transformers, Micronauts, ROM, Action Man, and M.A.S.K movie mash-up comes out… Hasbro has done pretty well with Transformers and G.I. Joe in the film industry (I mean pretty well in terms of $$…you know what I mean). Now it looks like Hasbro wants to drag all of their toys to the big screen, but Marvel has other plans for them…stay tuned.

Author, Martin Passante, is a 2L at Brooklyn Law School. Martin focuses his studies in intellectual property, entertainment, and copyright law especially in the world of YouTube.