I am wondering if I can include fictional inventions like the power suits in Iron Man. I believe that "power-suits" are used legally by a lot of media; however, what if the power-suit you're describing is very similar to the one in Iron Man? Let's say there are jets on both hands and feet and, to take things even further, what if the color scheme is the same, and what if the mask looks exactly the same (but the rest isn't)? What about lightsabers?

To what degree does an object need to be similar in order to be vulnerable to a trademark lawsuit for a fictional object?

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    This is an interesting question because the Mickey Mouse head and ears silhouette is trademarked by Disney so why can't Iron Man's suit or lightsabers etc. Commented Feb 19, 2019 at 10:11

4 Answers 4


Here's a common sense rule: if it has ever been mass-manufactured as a toy then it is licensed property and has IP protection. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intellectual_property

Ironman's armor and SW lightsabers are not "stock" items appearing across unrelated genre works. Compare to medieval knight armor or barbarian swords which are "stock" items. A generic time machine is not protected, but a time machine Delorean powered by a flux capacitor is specific to one franchise.

The fact that they are fictional does not make them less protected. The IP is stronger when they are used consistently and repeatedly within their franchises.

Laser – actual thing that exists in rl.
Phaser™ – exists only in Star Trek franchise.

Android – actual thing that exists in rl.
Droid™ – exists only in Star Wars franchise.

Comicbook character with superhuman abilities – "stock" element that appears across many titles and franchises
Super Hero™ – coined by DC in the 1930s, but not trademarked until the 1960s when the term was already in generic use. The legal status is disputed but has not been challenged in a court of law

Trademark and Copyright are specific to manufacturing and publishing, respectively. "Fictional inventions" which are intrinsic and specific to their franchises have numerous legal protections including industrial design and trade dress. Comicbook character designs are the product, far more than any one film or book which is protected by copyright, or the logo which is protected by trademark.

The more recognizable the design – especially when they have been licensed for other media (toys, halloween costumes, films) – the more their legal protections are recognized. The simple fact that Disney has defended their IP with lawsuits, reinforces their case for IP. Marvel even provides contact information for licensing on their website.

These are current franchises, and their exclusive and valuable corporate licensing contracts are common knowledge. If the average 10yo knows Ironman is part of the Marvel Universe, I guarantee a judge will not have any problem deciding.


Read my answer to your question yesterday about copyright. The courts will look at the totality of your work. If they find the work is "substantially similar" then you infringe copyright.

So if your suit is exactly the same, YES, you probably infringe; Iron Man's suit is a product of somebody else's imagination, the way it works and looks is the product of many hours of work and imagination. You cannot steal it!

I am not a lawyer but the way it was explained to me is this: If what you copy already exists in multiple works by more than one author, then it is probably okay to to copy it, because copyright and trademark have to be owned by ONE entity, they cannot be held jointly by multiple owners. So if you find talking rabbits in many books, feel free to write talking rabbits. Bugs Bunny is not the only talking rabbit.

But if what you copy is traceable to one and only one source, then you are likely in violation. So if your power suit looks and works exactly like the fictional Iron Man's power suit, and you cannot find any other fictional power suit in the literature that THEY copied, then leave it alone.


Iron Man wasn't the first person to don Power Armor. That would be Juan "Johnnie" Rico from the sci-fi novel Starship Trooper by Robert Heinlein. Even then, the novel is said to have only "popularized" the concept, not be the outright creator of it. Even wishing to make an Iron Man styled superhero, there are a lot of other popular power armor heroes out there, such as Steel and Blue Beetle (DC), Robot (Image comics), Iron Lad/Vision II of the Young Avengers (the gimmick with the initial team is that they are all legacy characters of heroes, but not the ones they initially appear as... for example Hulkling is not the Hulk, but rather the first Captain Marvel.). Star Hawk is another Marvel Power Armor character but his armor is from a very different source than Iron Man's and the two have no major interactions.

You can use the concept, just don't make it a full on Iron Man.


The concept of power armour isn't in itself subject to a trademark or copyright, but Iron Man's definitely would be, just as a costume consisting of a bodysuit, boots, and a cape would be okay but red boots and cape with a blue bodysuit with a shield-shaped red and yellow logo on the chest, not okay.

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