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Patent Penders

A couple of years ago, Ken Penders dropped a bombshell on the comics industry.

Penders had been working on Archie's Sonic The Hedgehog comic book.  Along the way, he created some characters for the series.  The characters were popular enough with the Sonic fans that they started appearing in the video games.  Not bad, huh?

Two years ago, Penders left Archie in a huff, and sued.  He says the characters he created were not work for hire -- no formal deal was reached, so he retains all rights to them.  This caused Sega to hastily rework its then upcoming Sonic game since some of those characters factored in as NPC's.

Was it work for hire?  I don't know.  Archie Comics has a reputation for strongarming the talent.  Combine this with other creators who worked on Sonic like Scott Shaw! and Elliot Maggin saying they never signed contracts either, and it is possible, not certain but possible, that Archie didn't sew everything up.  I've heard rumors that their version of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was more creator-friendly than most "creator comics" out there.

It was about two years ago that Archie announced they had patched things up and Penders wouldn't be a problem anymore.  Penders disagreed, quite publicly, and has continued to press his lawsuit.  Other than Sega changing the game, there has been no forward movement.  I'm guessing Archie decided to try the classic "stall until the opposition runs out of money" gambit.

Penders just escalated.

Diamond is carrying the trade Knuckles The Echidna Volume 3, which features some of Penders' creations.  Diamond is very risk adverse when it comes to lawsuits.  Penders sent Diamond a C&D, saying they are distributing his work without his permission.

Diamond just pulled the collection from distribution.

Now, like I said, this doesn't necessarily mean Penders has a valid claim, just that one company doesn't feel it is worth the risk, and Diamond is very flinchy when it comes to this stuff.  But it does put Archie back in action.  A lot of the collection sales go through Diamond (the other, who handles actual bookstores and such, is Random House), and this not only means lost revenue, but makes them look bad.

Expect this to get back to the bargaining table soon.  And expect it to be NDA'ed out the ass.  Which is a shame.  There's a lot of lessons creators could learn from this.  Thankfully, the truth will eventually get out.  One ear at a time....

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