The Current

Spider-man patent case could impact medical research law

How a Spider-Man toy at the centre of a U.S. patent law case could end up coming to the rescue of medical researchers.

For generations now, kids have been enthralled by the Amazing Spider-Man. They've read the comic books, watched the cartoons and the movies, played with the action figures, and fantasized about swinging from building-to-building, just like Spidey... if only they too could fire off a web with the flick of their wrist. 

Then came one father-son duo, from Tucson, Arizona, who decided to take things into their own hands... and head to the workshop. The result was the Spider-man "Web Blaster."

We read Spider-man comics and we thought why isn't there a toy that let's us shoot webs like Spider-man.- Stephen Kimble, inventor of the Spider-man Web blaster

The toy's inventor has spent years trapped in a web of lawsuits. And just last week, his toy swung onto the docket of the U.S. Supreme Court. It's at the centre of a case involving an obscure American patent law and if it succeeds in having an older decision overturned, the decision could possibly even help save some real lives... by paving the way for important medical research. 

Stephen Kimble is the inventor of the Spider-man Web blaster.  He spoke with us from Tuscon, Arizona. We reached out to Marvel for comment, but they have not replied to us.

There is potentially much more at stake in this case than royalties from a super hero-inspired toy. Some say an overturn of the so-called Brulotte Rule, could have some implications far beyond the world of toys. Roman Melnik represents Stephen Kimble. He's a lawyer from the firm Goldberg, Lowenstein & Weatherwax, and he also lectures on patent law at the University of Southern California Law School. 


This segment was produced by The Current's Sonya Buyting.