Supreme Court's Ruling Full of Spider-Man Quips
Elena Kagan is a comic book fan in real life
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 22, 2015 2:35 PM CDT
People wait in line to go into the Supreme Court in Washington, Monday, June 22, 2015.    (Susan Walsh)
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(Newser) – The inventor of a popular Spider-Man web-shooting toy can't keep reeling in royalties after his patent ran out, the Supreme Court ruled 6-3 today. Stephen Kimble sold his patent on the toy to Marvel in 2001, and as the Verge explains, Marvel said it would pay him royalties indefinitely. But when it uncovered a 1964 Supreme Court decision that found royalties could cease once a patent expired, Marvel in 2010 halted payments. It's a ruling that's perhaps garnering more headlines than usual, thanks to the number of comic-book jokes Elena Kagan incorporated into the opinion she wrote for the court.

Vox points out that per Supreme Court Review, Kagan is "a comic book fan and an avid fan of comic-book based action films, claiming that she has seen them all and that her favorite film is The Avengers" (she also likes frozen yogurt). A collection of her most Spider-y lines, from Slate and Vox:

  • The parties were "apparently contemplating that [the royalties] would continue for as long as kids want to imitate Spider-Man (by doing whatever a spider can)."
  • "Patents endow their holders with certain superpowers, but only for a limited time."
  • "To the contrary, the decision's close relation to a whole web of precedents means that reversing it could threaten others."
  • "As against this superpowered form of stare decisis, we would need a superspecial justification to warrant reversing [an old decision]."
  • "What we can decide, we can undecide. But stare decisis teaches that we should exercise that authority sparingly. Cf. S. Lee and S. Ditko, Amazing Fantasy No 15: "Spider-Man," p 13 (1962): ('[I]n this world, with great power there must also come great responsibility)."