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ECTA MEMBERS’ VOICE: The Dark Knight rises above…again. WIPO reveals Batman was the most used Franchise Character in Movies and Games throughout the years.
By Chris Hoole, ECTA Copyright Committee and EUIPO Link Committee member, Appleyard Lees IP LLP (UK) & Nicole Marshall, Appleyard Lees IP LLP (UK)

It was WIPO Director General Daren Tang who revealed at the Frankfurt Book Fair on Wednesday, 14 October 2020, that for the past four decades Batman was the most-used franchise character across movies and video games. The Dark Knight was ranked in the top spot with 157 franchise appearances and was closely followed by Dracula in second (108 franchise appearances) and Spider Man in third (94 franchise appearances).

The rankings came as part of the first installment of a news series of 'Creative Economy Notes', launched following a collaboration agreement between WIPO and the Frankfurt Book Fair. In WIPO’s press release on Wednesday it was stated that the purpose of this new series of “Creative Economy Notes” is to provide an empirical, first-hand insight into how the creative economy has evolved and is continuing to evolve, but also to provide a more detailed exploration into how certain policy choices affect the performance in the creative industries; for example, whether or not overlapping rights can lead to more or less franchising. The interactive series intends to explore the IP issues affecting the creative industries and how the current IP framework can best serve creative industries.

The first note aimed at the art industry was entitled 'Batman forever? Do overlapping trade mark and copyright frameworks affect the franchising of comic characters?' and explored the usage of comic book and other characters in US cinema and games between the years 1980-2019. Not only does the series provide an insight into the usage of different characters, but it also explores the overlap between trade mark and copyright frameworks, and how the owners of characters can take advantage of such an overlap by acquiring trade mark registrations alongside protection they may already have under the respective copyright framework. Copyright is most commonly used to protect creative works. However, according to the note, it is not the only option, and also explores what this means in economic and policy terms.

At the Book Fair, WIPO Director General Daren Tang stated 'Comic and other franchise characters like Batman have entertained generations of children and adults alike and are a great example of how
intellectual property systems help ensure these characters can adapt and remain popular even as technologies and platforms evolve'
. This statement is further enhanced by WIPO research showing that the top 3 characters found in Annex 1 to the note have together generated around $5.89 billion in revenue over the almost 40 year period. Therefore, ensuring that those who create and own such characters are rewarded properly is of great importance, and this is where IP framework such as copyright and trade marks can come into play.

The first Creative Economy note can be found here.

The next Creative Economy note aimed at the music industry entitled 'What’s on stage tonight? A closer look at copyright and opera performances' is expected to be released soon.


The views expressed are those of our members and not necessarily of ECTA as an association.

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