Rights in the cartoons, says the comic book empire, were not properly transferred to Disney when it purchased US television company Fox Family Worldwide in 2001, and so the entertainment giant has no right to show the animations now.
According to the Associated Press, the suit, filed in a Los Angeles federal court on Friday, alleges fraud, unfair competition and copyright infringement.
It follows on from a suit filed by Marvel in July, charging that Disney has not kept proper accounting records of the royalties due to Marvel; that while some royalties have been paid, Marvel is due millions in unpaid royalties; and that Disney has not been aggressive enough in marketing the cartoons, particularly in light of the recent blockbuster Spider-Man and Hulk films.
The first Spider-Man movie, starring Toby Maguire and Kirsten Dunst, became the highest grossing film of 2002, taking over $800 million at cinemas worldwide. Combined with DVD sales, it generated more than $1.3 billion in revenue. This year's sequel has generated around $820 million worldwide so far. Spider-Man 3 is due to be released in May 2007.