Archie Takes Penders to Court Over Character Copyrights

Archie Takes Penders to Court Over Character Copyrights

I’m sure you all remember Ken Penders’ attempt to copyright everything he did while working for Archie’s Sonic the Hedgehog comic this summer. Since his initial announcement, there has been very little visible legal movement between Penders and Archie, aside from Archie’s claims Penders’ suit didn’t make it past the first phone call from Archie’s lawyers, and Penders’ claims to the contrary.

Now, for the first time in a while, we have some genuine legal activity between the two parties: Archie is now taking Penders to court. Filed on November 23rd, the case is challenging the constitutionality of state statutes. That means this case will be challenging the laws that allowed Penders to file his copyrights. This case will be done in Federal Court and can, conceivably, go all the way up to the Supreme Court should either party want to take it that far.

We’ve contacted Archie for comment on this law suit, and we’ll let you know if Penders comments on this via his forums. Until then, you can see the case details of Archie Comic Publications, Inc v Penders.

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Alex Peal has been an editor at Sonic Stadium since 2007, and has been covering events like E3, PAX, and SDCC since 2010. An avid retro gamer, he runs a monthly stream on Twitch where he explores obscure Sonic oddities, and how aspects of the franchise have evolved over the decades.


  1. I don’t get why this has to go to court, can’t Archie just realize that what they did is wrong, pay the guy the money, put his name in the credits of the Comics with the character, and just get on with it. There are far too many court cases going on right now anyway, and this isn’t even that much fun (compared to the Ace Attorney Cases, those are AMAZING!!!!)

  2. Well, basically, this implies that Penders’ case holds water and the copyrights are his, but it implies that he used a loophole to make them his. Usually in these situations the copyrights for them would be marked as “For Hire” which means that the work in question was made as a part of your job and as such, the company you work for holds most of the rights to use it, and the only thing that’s truly yours about it and they can’t take away is the fact that it was you who made it/came up with it. but the fact that Archie is challenging the constituionality of laws and not the legality of Penders’ claims indicates that this is not the case. and yes, Stolken, drawings need to be copyrighted, well, technically they’re already copyrighted automatically, but you have to actually register them to be copyrighted if you want the super-special-awesome secret bonus protection.

  3. I wonder if *spoiler Alert* they made Geoffrey St. John a traitor to stick it Penders. Geoffrey is one of Ken Penders’ most loved characters.

  4. I doubt that, this was something Ian talked with Kaminski about back in 2009.

    And as of yet everything has been with Archie, not Penders. Even Penders’ own copy rights didn’t actually go through.

  5. This is getting out of hand,I’m glad that Archie is doing something about this

    @sonictoast I have the feeling you may be right.

  6. with all due respect towards both parties i would figure that Archie would go to this point. Ken Penders no longer works at archie comics. and when ever you base your work off a SEGA property its SEGA’s. No one in this whole world can just walk up there and try to create something based on Sonic without the basis of Archie/SEGA paying attention. I am suprised but this is expect if Mr. Penders was going to go this far.

  7. I hope this is done with quick. Would hate to see this stain our image of 225.

    Also sonictoast, I thought the same thing also with Hershey Cat. She was the only one Ken could have gotten away with I have heard and with how its expressed in the latest comic, she ain’t gonna show up for a while….

  8. But at the end of the day, they’re not Penders’ characters. They’re Archie’s and Sega’s. Why is Penders going out of his way to sue the company? He made these characters for that company

  9. Someone hire the police academy guys to be security… Prossecutor Miles Edgeworth is on the scene!

  10. Why is this still going on? Mr. Penders doesn’t have a case against Archie. He signed away all his rights to these intellectual properties once he moved on board and started working for Archie. It’s called a “Work for Hire” agreement and you don’t get to keep what you create. This is actually pretty basic media law.

    @Stolken: It’s not so much the physical drawings as it is the use of their characters. There’s much more to this than its surface value of who owns what. If Penders owned the rights to Julie Su and other important characters, Archie would be unable to use them, or would have to pay the royalties that belong to THEM to HIM, which is not going to happen. They are Archie Comic and SEGA characters now. And yes, drawings need legal protection, too.

    @Miles Per-hour: Archie has done absolutely nothing wrong here. They don’t “owe” Penders anything. Do you know anything about how intellectual properties work?

  11. jeez, i was hopimg this would be over with. I didnt want Archie to actually sue penders cause Archie’s lawyers are brutal (poor Dan DeClaro and at least he HAD a case). On his forum Penders seems so confident he’ll win saying he’d make grapic novels of his chars (without using knuckles, the master emerald or angel island….yeah that’ll be amusing….). I hope this end without major ramifications for either party but Penders is making it hard for me to even consider his stance on this nonsense.

  12. @ProjectZuel

    Is such a messed up thing to say to somebody.
    Its like saying…You should of known that, when he obviously didnt.

    Im just saying there is no need for it.

  13. Oh yeah, about the issue…

    Yeah, I think the odds are Ken is a bit nutty…
    But I think its kind of hard to see until we see who wins.

    Maybe by some slight chance Archie overlooked something.
    Probably not though.

  14. I didnt hear about any copyright thing about sonic comics until now. what exactly happened? What did he try to copyright? ugg, MAH BRAIN HURRRTS!!!

  15. Penders is fighting for unoriginal characters. Instead of wasting his time starting this whole mess, he could have made some actual ORIGINAL characters. Doubt he could do that though.

  16. @Lanmanna: Penders actually writes his own comic series and has been doing so for a long time now, while Potto wrote fanfic and that was how he got the Sonic job.

  17. ^ oh yea his Lost Ones comic. You can argue how original it is but it didnt last very long ( or didnt make more issues, whatever since that was YEARS ago.)

  18. Ken, you’re getting your bad karma all over my Sonic.

    Does Archie stand to get money out of all this? It seems like a waste otherwise…

  19. @Umiyuri This!!What he’s doing sounds so…. How to make an original sonic character!Take one of several sonic characters,give them a new personality,make them more powerful than they should be,give them a different color,add a few accessories,and bam!You’ve got Rob o’ the hedge.

    Original character do not steal!I’m sorry,but this sounds like a majority of the artists on DA who recolor then whine and moan and want to have it there way,and if you dont like it,you’re going to get in trouble.

  20. *eyeroll* This is crazy! Although if things were staying quiet, why would Archie want to take Penders to court? Isn’t that just adding fuel to the fire?

    @sonictoast: That is actually a really good theory! But like Nuckles87 said, it was an older idea, as it says on the bottom of the Sonic Grams page.

  21. Penders wrote one issue of the lost ones, but has mostly worked on licensed properties. Star Trek and Sonic are his two big ones from my recollection. Regrettably, he hasn’t done much original work, but to be fair it’s because it’s hard to get your own original IP off the ground, hence why Lost Ones only ever had a single issue.

  22. This is most interesting Nuckles87. Thank you so kindly for the latest update on the legal situation regarding Sonic Archie Comics vs. Penders. I will definitely learn new things as the case develops. *thumbs up*

  23. While on the subject of the comic…
    Rest in Peace Jon D’Agostino, thank you for the contributions to the comic book world

  24. “This case will be done in Federal Court and can, conceivably, go all the way up to the Supreme Court should either party want to take it that far.”

    Sonic the Hedgehog: Serious Legal Business.

    Next thing you know, Phoenix Wright will show up. ¦D

  25. Somebody is gonna get an epic bitchslap in court, and rings will start to fly.

    And it wont be Archie.

  26. @Hook131 Penders wrote for Archie’s Sonic comic for 11 years, and is now bitter that he’s no longer writing for them.

  27. BlueChaos your being rude please think about this

    I hope things don’t get messy here :L though never really read the comics or can’t coz I’m in Europe

  28. Oh boy, here we go now.

    I figure Archie is attacking the weak point in Ken’s argument here. Patent offices have a tendency to let weird things slip through the cracks. (Nintendo had a video game controller lawsuit a while back. The company suing the big N had a handful of patents that were odd. IE: They had two patents for a ‘Variable Conductance Sensor’ (read: a button), which is odd because the two patents are identical. Meaning got a patent for an already patented idea… even if it was their ‘own’… and that isn’t counting the fact that what they patented was so vague they could literally sue pretty much anyone using anything remotely resembling the buttons you find on your TV remote control, game controller, microwave, etc…) So I think what they are doing here is trying to prove that he shouldn’t have been able to get said patents in the first place since his contract states binds the characters/stories as Work For Hire. If you want to kill a weed, go for the root. They aren’t attacking the laws… but are calling the patents into question with the laws. If they can prove that the patents should not have been issued then the case is over.

    You can’t blame the patent office for issuing the patents in this case, because they may have not known about the contract that was in place. And Ken would most likely not have told them. Proving validity of the patents is simply the fastest way to take down the case.

    I don’t think the St. John thing is a slap in the face… in fact quite the opposite… St. John is acting true to his character from back in the day. Which honestly is kind of refreshing, back then you never knew what the heck St. John was going to do. And as for Hershey, there’s the slap in the face. The comic specifically mentions her, despite her being the most likely to be owned by Penders (which I doubt will happen) when all is said and done. I figure that specific mention is a deliberate ‘Take That’ of sorts, because if the comic book even though for a second that they wouldn’t be able to keep her they would have just said ‘wife’ instead of mentioning her by name. On top of that… Hershey has been missing from the comic for longer than this legal drama’s been going on… I’ve been wondering about that. I mean she’s been gone since before 187… which was the last time St. John went to Mogul’s casino… and she was barely mentioned. So that’s going back almost 4 years… I’m more curious as to why they had her gone since then… especially since they could have had her in that story, but they didn’t they put Rouge in there instead. So were they aware of her character’s questionable ownership back then or is that Ian setting up a future plot point that he didn’t get around to yet, because in all honesty this new issue brought up memories of 187 because both stories had St. John in Mogul’s casino… and I’m wondering if this has something to do with that. But I’m getting off topic now.

  29. Uhghhhh, why does Archie even bother with this? In fact why does anyone? Penders’ characters are all pretty much “Original the character” mary sues anyway. Archie should let him keep them because they’re most likely to find more original looking material on Deviantart

  30. ^ Yea…. no….>.>

    Saying why bother is like saying why bother wit ANY character regarding copyright issues (tho your defintion of mary-sue may differ since some fans dont seem to know what it means and use it for chars they dont like or know). Companies will fight tooth amd nail for their properties so its no suprise Archie wants to keep them so they can keep making money with their established universe. Oh, and of course SEGA wants their cash as well lol

  31. Now I know why I don’t read the comics. The Continuity is not real! Only the GAMES have a true Continuity! Next thing you know, we’ll see Boom Comics (Disney Comics Publishers) tackle either Winnie the Pooh (for the younger audience) or Kingdom Hearts, and have Sora appear as a KH Play Arts toy belonging to Andy in one story.

  32. Just think , you make the universe in the archie comics, you give life to the characters, create storylines that build there characters etc, then you leave only to see some awful writer ruin everything…..

    i say let penders win, i want Ian to create his own work and make good storylines, at the moment he’s awful, every storyline is the same thing and there’s no character development, he doesn’t move forward with the series which is what your ment to do.

    he just repeats’ storylines, makes everything good again, back to square one etc etc.

    “were at war with eggman” no your not…. he doesn’t even attack he only does when sonic attacks him.

    “i failed as a leader *crys* ” “no your a great leader” “ok then your right” ……

    every character is the same now, and everything is in the camps of good, evil and anit-heroes, where’s the grey? meaning where’s the sides of both in one, like what if a freedom fighter turned evil and actually killed another freedom fighter? sparks a interesting storyline and moves forward.

    ive completely lost track what’s going on in them now, because everything is a complete mess, only sonics character is remaining the same, everyone else is like (mina “ive been having nightmares” when was this? where did he hint that? etc.

    storylines from ian flynn have been nothing but boring, awful and cheesy.

    bring in character development and move forward stop going backwards and quit with the repeating.

    in the end that’s why Sonic the comic will always been the best sonic comic adaptation , it stayed true to the games, never went off its roots and even Pushed forward with character development, im mostly speaking about the sonic adventure arc which was brilliant, killing off Johnny lightfoot was a massive twist, destroying the floating island and showing the origins of knuckles and emeralds was great too.

    Even sonic was developed after Johnny’s death, sonic wasn’t all joky after realising that any of his Pals could actually die during the battle with robotnik, oh and the UK comics rarely did any stupid team up with the villain plots, and it was a war with robotnik from start to finish.

    ian flynn needs to quit the stupid team up with villains we’ve had loads of that already, team up with scourge, team up with eggman, etc etc. team up with Fiona the fox and her team etc etc……

  33. “in the end that’s why Sonic the comic will always been the best sonic comic adaptation , it stayed true to the games”

    Never did get that when people say that. Having read ALL of StC it wasnt ever really like the games at all. A good read, yes, but stayed true? No, No media out thats in the franchise has ever followed its roots, probly cause the games themselves have less continuity than any of the shows, comics or manga

  34. I uh really couldn’t care less about the comics since they never come in Europe….so uh good luck 😛 Arhcie ruins sonic by far

  35. Hahaha, oh wow. Watching folks go off on Ian’s writing is fantastic.

    ESPECIALLY this bit:

    “every character is the same now”
    Have you READ Pender’s writing? It suffers from serious “same person different body” syndrome. If you switch out anyone’s dialouge with anyone else’s, you really wouldn’t notice.

    I don’t think Ian is a perfect writer by any means either, but… I don’t see that complaint as having merit.

    And since it was mentioned about Mina and her nightmares… I think that was an excellent turn of events. It shows that the things that happen have -effects- on people (aka character development). She, and everyone else in the city, was put into a situation that does have psychological ramification. If you lived in a place where some form of being could, at all times, monitor you, or change the very ground you’re standing on, making your ceiling fall on you and crush you to death, make the walls close in on you, drag you off kicking and screaming into the night… you’d be shaken too, especially after that being has fallen under outside malicious influences and DONE some terrifying things. That IS character development and it’s something that’s been built up for awhile. Mina isn’t the only one affected and it wasn’t the first time it was alluded to.

    As for saying that Pender’s characters should be removed from the comics so that Ian has to make his own… that’s … well, it’s called continuity. All the Pender characters are suddenly gone. Guess what? It messes up all the established continuity in the comics. The comic storylines everyone has been following and reading? Fractured beyond repair. Ian HAS to build on TOP of established continuity. Otherwise it’s like knocking out the bottom of a building.

    Aaaand done nerd ranting, sorry.

    Oh, and StC was pretty good. The villians were terribly flat and two dimensional though.

  36. Actually, I think its pretty much moot arguing “only the games have true continuity.”

    First off, the comics have more continuity than the games. How often do the games refer to plot points from previous games outside of characters? Secondly, the comic is just a separate continuity altogether. In the same manner that the Batman comics, cartoons, and movies are separate continuities, so are the Sonic comics, the games, cartoons and even the anime. Honestly, I stopped thinking of the comic as being based games a long time ago. If you don’t want to accept the comics, then don’t. I’ll continue to enjoy both versions of Sonic.

    I don’t think who can’t point at Ian as being a bad writer just because he’s using established characters. That’s like saying every time someone writing for Batman isn’t creative just because he used the Joker. And doing so would put down a lot of good stories. In fact, I think Ian is a great writer. At first, he had to tie all the loose ends Penders left behind, but since clearing most of those up he has done an excellent job telling stories. He has added new characters and has been re-establishing just what Eggman’s hold on the world is. Each new comic has been tying together better. My biggest complaint with him is that the Sonic Universe storyline are too long. He could tell most of the stories with better pacing in three issues instead of four. He has also been setting up plotlines that keep me wondering what is going to happen next.

    BTW, I haven’t read StC, but it sounds like it has an interesting plot with the time travel. They should honestly bring a graphic novel collection of it over here. I’d read it.

  37. He’ll have no chance of winning. I mean, if he DOES win, by some twisted miracle, then that would mean the imminent successful rise and prolonging of MegaMan’s Archie Comics career!

  38. Can’t some of you folks whine about Mr Flynn properly?
    Honestly if you folks got a bone to pick him with go to his website and tell him how you feel about the comics.
    In a constructive manner of course.

  39. I’m a tad split in this whole lawsuit thing. Penders has some pretty faulty claims, but Archie has the tendency to be a bit “lawsuit-happy”. I don’t see why Archie just can’t play the man a few royalties and end this already.

    But then again, I could be wrong. I was never much for court cases.

  40. Why would you WANT to legally own these characters? It’s like arguing over who owns a dirty pair of socks.

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