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Answer by Lary Dixon, an active Quora member.
Well, you know, they could do that at any time, employ a LOT of lawyers, and wind up…
…right where they are, except for making a lot of lawyers very wealthy.
Within comics, as it was with, for example, special effects in the 1960s and 1970s, there was a limited talent pool. People worked for Charlton or DC or Marvel on one thing, then they’d work at Charlton or DC or Marvel on another thing. It was always the same guys. So, if editorial fiat at DC frustrated them, they’d do a near-identical character at Marvel. Sometimes it would even be to spoof the original (See: Slade Wilson/Deathstroke V. Wade Wilson/Deadpool).
If DC & Marvel went after each other, they’d cut their own throats. One thing I loved about working in comics was that pretty much EVERYONE in the field knew and liked each other. When situations here and there got very bad, some of that talent split off and made indie companies (Dark Horse, Top Cow, etc.)
So, suing each other means they’d alienate their talent pool, pretty much all of whom would walk out and form their new competition. They’d be left with empty offices to be filled by less-experienced talent, only now, they’d have blown their leverage on the lawsuits, would be less prestigious, and pay less.
And the lawsuits themselves? Complete draw in the end, because a judge would rule that iconic elements about superheroes like capes and boots and masks are just that: iconic. Not even Lego could force other companies away from using the Lego brick shape. For specific characters, there could be wins for either side, but not much of a settlement. In the end, Marvel & DC would garner only an Epic Fail on Infinite Earths.