Marvel superheroes could pose antitrust risk for Disney, Universal

Spider-Man has Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando in a web that legal experts say could put the rival resorts at risk of antitrust complaints.

The issue stems from the Walt Disney Co.’s recently completed, $4 billion purchase of Marvel Entertainment, the comic-book company that has for years licensed its superheroes for use in Universal theme parks. And it underscores the awkward marriage that has been forced upon Disney World and Universal Orlando, two resorts that have long been intense, sometimes bitter, competitors.

Through a 15-year-old licensing contract between Marvel and an arm of NBC Universal — a contract Disney inherited when it bought Marvel — Universal Orlando is the only theme park on the U.S. East Coast that can use some of Marvel’s best-known characters, including Spider-Man, the Incredible Hulk and the X-Men.

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