Estate of Denial:  A federal judge in New York has ruled in favor of comic book publisher Marvel Worldwide in a dispute over who owns the rights to such popular characters as the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, the X-Men, Iron Man and the Incredible Hulk.

The heirs of comic book artist Jack Kirby sought to assert their rights to such iconic characters in 2009, shortly after Disney announced it would acquire Marvel for $4 billion. Kirby’s estate filed 45 notices of copyright termination, seeking to take back rights to characters created from 1958 to 1963, which they claimed were Kirby’s creations.

Marvel argued that Kirby’s work constituted “work for hire” — that it was done by a freelance artist, under the direction and control of a company, which therefore retained the rights for such creative works.