Spider-Man versus Kippa Man

Marvel Comics sues Jerusalem store over unlicensed skullcaps.

By MELANIE LIDMAN
September 14, 2012 02:21
2 minute read.
Boy looks at selection of kippot in shop

Boy wears Spider Man kippa 370. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)

 
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“With great power, comes great responsibility.”

These epic words led Spider- Man to pursue a life of justice and fighting villains. But with great power also comes the ability to sue the pants off of small businesses that illegally use Spider- Man’s image on a crocheted kippa.

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On Wednesday, Jerusalem’s landmark kippa store on the Ben-Yehuda pedestrian mall, Kippa Man, suddenly found itself caught in a web of drama worthy of Spider- Man’s twisted storylines.

Owner Avi Binyamin was informed that he is being sued by Marvel Comics for NIS 100,000 for selling unlicensed Spider-Man merchandise: Kippot with Spidey’s likeness.

On July 30, Marvel’s representatives in Israel visited the Kippa Man shop and bought a Spider-Man kippa.

“A reasonable consumer could be fooled into thinking that the infringing product is manufactured and/or sold by the plaintiff with the knowledge and/or approval of the defendant,” the court document states.

Attorney Amir Ivtsan, a partner in the Ivtsan, Netzer, Wolecki & Co. law firm that has represented Marvel in Israel for the past decade, said any business in Israel suspected of selling illegal Marvel merchandise would be sued for NIS 100,000. He added that Marvel received information about Kippa Man specifically, which is why representatives visited his store.

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Binyamin’s famous store is about two meters wide and four meters long, and stuffed full with colorful kippot. He sells only kippot and does a brisk business, with a steady stream of customers.

Other kippa salesman on the pedestrian mall grudgingly acknowledge he sells the most kippot and is the best-known name internationally.

Binyamin was dismayed to learn he was the subject of a lawsuit. “They make them in China, I just bring them,” a frustrated Binyamin said on Thursday.

“There are 20 stores on this street, they all sell the same thing,” he added. He hypothesized that they targeted his store because his name was well-known.

But Binyamin isn’t the only villain on Ben-Yehuda Street. If Marvel is looking for justice, there are dozens of shops that sell touristy knick-knacks and piles of kippot that feature popular superheroes, including Spider- Man. They also feature other registered trademarks, including Starbucks, Apple, Pringles, Superman, BMW, all the major football, basketball and soccer teams, and college mascots.

On Thursday, almost every store proudly displayed a Spider-Man kippa outside, and owners were shocked when informed of Marvel’s decision to sue Binyamin.

“It’s stupid, maybe they’re bored, or maybe they hate Jews,” said B., one store owner who refused to give her name. Others wondered if the lawsuit was some kind of personal vendetta since only one shop was targeted.

Ivtsan flatly denied that the lawsuit was personally directed at Binyamin.

“This is one of many similar cases... If they find illegal merchandise, they will tell us and we will sue them. It’s not connected to Kippa Man or anyone else, it’s not anything personal,” he said.

The court documents say that the problem of unlicensed merchandise has become more widespread in Israel in recent years.

“Offenses against intellectual property have grown in dimension, and are bringing serious damage to domestic trade as well as international trade, and are requiring law enforcement agencies, including the court system, to provide effective deterrents against this crime,” the court document states.

Binyamin has removed all of his Spider-Man kippot pending the outcome of the lawsuit, though other stores have not.

But the message is clear: kippa-crocheters, beware. Marvel’s superheroes are watching you.

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