By the power of Greyskull, not to mention the statute of limitations, Mattel is looking to keep He-Man and the Masters of the Universe franchise away from the grips of writer Donald Glut.
The toy-maker has filed a lawsuit in California federal court that seeks a declaration of its rights. According to the complaint, Glut has recently come forward to assert that he created the characters and is entitled to copyright ownership. Mattel says that it is too late, that for more than three decades it's been acknowledged that Glut's contributions fell under the work-for-hire doctrine.
If Mattel is correct that this was a work-for-hire, under copyright law, that would mean that the company is deemed to be the author. The other possibility is Glut's reported theory of ownership that he has "licensed" his work to Mattel, which would mean that it's subject to termination in 2016.
Over the years, there's been some dispute over who deserves attribution for the characters on the fictional planet of Eternia. Roger Sweet, one of Mattel's lead toy designers, has taken some credit. The lawsuit states that Mattel around 1980 tasked its design department with creating a new boys property and settled on a concept of a muscle-bound hero who has the power to travel through various time periods. Glut is acknowledged as having created the backstory for He-Man and other characters. Mattel says Glut did so as "one of the independent contractors" with instruction by the company on "certain key elements."