Disney Sues Party Store For Costumes Looking Like Disney Characters

from the let's-look-at-the-history dept

You all know the history of Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse, right? It all started with a train crash in 1900 killing one engineer named Cayce Jones. That crash inspired the fireman on that train ride to write a song commemorating Jones. That song became popular, passed along from railroad to railroad, and some others took it and turned it into a popular song about “Casey Jones.” That was so popular, that some other songwriters basically remixed the song into one about a Steamboat captain: Steamboat Bill. That became so popular that Buster Keaton made a silent film called “Steamboat Bill Jr.” And, finally, that inspired Walt Disney to take the idea of a mouse named Mickey (which some believe he got from a popular toy named Micky Mouse sold by an entirely different company) and created a parody video called “Steamboat Willie.” That launched Mickey Mouse and Walt Disney into a world of fame and fortune — all based on this creative passing on of songs, names, characters and content — all of which Disney now believes should be illegal.

Remember that when you read this story, sent in by ehrichweiss, about Disney suing a married couple who own a party supplies for a million dollars, because they happened to buy some costumes from a supplier in Peru that look like the Disney owned Winnie-the-Pooh characters Tigger and Eeyore. The couple claims they didn’t realize the costumes were of the Pooh characters, thinking they were just a tiger and a donkey. As soon as they received the lawsuit, the couple immediately sent the costumes back to the supplier in Peru. Turns out this was a mistake, as Disney is demanding they hand over the costumes.

Apparently, all creative innovation needed to stop once Disney took over.

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Companies: disney

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Comments on “Disney Sues Party Store For Costumes Looking Like Disney Characters”

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43 Comments
Pam says:

Re: Really............

Why?? Someone is going around using costumes that weren’t created by Disney and trying to sell the idea of those characters for their own profit. Maybe if they had bought the costume from Disney it wouldnt be as bad but bottom line they bootlegged a costume of a well known character. And they are seriously pretending like they didnt know. It would be one thing if it was just some random Tiger but the fact that the face is identical to Tigger makes it wrong.

And Free publicity off of items that were made illegally in the image of their characters is not going to generate them business its going to generate business of the couple that stole the idea without giving credit where its due. They knew that the link-ness of those two animals would be what younger kids wanted and they used that as their selling point…because they knew Parents would want them for their kids. Its just not fair to the business regardless of if the stories and ideas were taken from somewhere else. Its their animation and they deserve to say what can be done and what cant.

PaulT (profile) says:

Hmmm...

Normally, I’d be on the side of the anti-Disney crowd. This time, I’m with Disney if those costumes pictured are the costumes being sold. Seriously, a tiger and donkey, fine. A tiger with a face that looks very similar to Tigger, and a *blue* donkey with a face nearly identical to Eeyore, and that’s a coincidence?

The only real question is who should be sued. It looks like the infringement is on the part of the suppliers, not on the couple who sold the items. On the other hand, they shouldn’t be getting cheap supplies from Peru without double-checking the merchandise *before* offering them for sale. So, there’s some liability but the Peruvian suppliers are the party with more guilt – though obviously harder to sue.

deadzone (profile) says:

Re: Hmmm...

I agree in part with you but seriously – suing these people and their company for a MILLION DOLLARS?! That seems to be over the top and extreme. They bought a “Likeness” of 2 characters Disney owns copyrights to and it doesn’t even sound like they were even remotely thinking about Disney or Disney Characters at the time.

Why not just ask them not to use the items first instead of firing up their huge-ass suing machine and taking no prisoners?

It’s just insane and wrong.

Nobody says:

Almost everything is borrowed or stolen

Look at nearly every movie disney did for the first couple decades. Most of the more popular ones are PC and Kid Friendly versions of Brothers Grimm fairy tales.

But, now that they have copied everyone else to make themselves a household name around the world, and filthy rich to boot, they sure don’t want anyone else doing it off of “their” stuff.

Sure, they may have old Walt’s head in Cryo-Freeze, but I doubt the Devil will let him go even if they figure out a way to “bring him back”.

eleete (user link) says:

Government

Our system seems to back the deeds of these industry giants. It’s ok when they don’t pay out, but hell hath no fury like a corporation infringed upon. Too bad more people can’t afford to fight these cases. These cases set precedent and the next thing ya know “we need a law, for stronger copyright”. Which translated means, “Hey there’s a lot of money to be had in the industry if we could just force people to pay for it”. Our government and our congress especially, need to wake up to the greed they enable, and the destruction to small business as in this article.

James says:

Actually...

I’m on Disney’s side here… but, they could certainly be reasonable about this, since they are the 800lbs gorilla against a tiny company here.

There’s nothing wrong w/them exerting their trademarks and copyrights here but they can certainly do it in a way to keep from looking like the bad guy.

Killer_Tofu (profile) says:

Re: Actually...

Re #15
Yes, there is a way for them to not look like the 800lb gorilla, and that is to NOT SUE THE LITTLE PEOPLE.
Sue the Peruvians, not the little people in a store just because they are easier to get to.

Because of all of the transgressions of Disney, I will do my absolute hardest to ensure that when I have kids, they will never see a movie or own any product that is related to disney. The only way they are going to get that, is if it is a gift from a relative. And then I will scold the relative later. They deserve nothing for being one of the most hypocritical businesses ever.

Sean Sawka says:

Disney's right this time

Now I’m not usually one to back big business, but in this case Disney is right to pursue, though I think there target is wrong.

First of all, there is no doubt that those costumes are suppose to be Tigger and Eyeore. Second of all, the defendants own a party store in central Florida. You can only assume that they had every intention of passing them off as Tigger and Eyeore.

Disney has the right to protect there intellectual property. Diney’s entire business is due to the popularity of their characters. To give a hypothetical, what if some “plushy” perv created a video of this “Tiger” and “Donkey” and posted it on youTube? Would they still not have the right to enforce their intellectual property rights? Besides, the defendants where looking to profit off the use of the costumes, this is not Disney going after someone for wearing a Halloween Costume.

Now, I do agree that if the defendants sent the costumes back, Disney’s beef should now be with the company that sold the costumes. It is possible that the defendants did not see a picture of the costumes before ordering (not likely, but possible!) What they should have done however is send the costumes back when they saw how close the costumes were to Tigger and Eyeore.

Whether or not Disney is deliquent on royalties for things that the legally licensed does not pertain to this case.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Disney's right this time

First of all, there is no doubt that those costumes are suppose to be Tigger and Eyeore.

Really? Just because you say so? Who are you working for?

You can only assume that they had every intention of passing them off as Tigger and Eyeore.

Why? Just because you say so again?

Disney’s beef should now be with the company that sold the costumes.

Maybe they don’t own any judges there.

Whether or not Disney is deliquent [sic] on royalties for things that the legally licensed does not pertain to this case.

If Disney is delinquent then they aren’t legally licensed. You better check your paycheck to make sure it doesn’t bounce too.

Doug C says:

Award Disney

Assuming that it can be determined that these characters were in fact intentional infringements of Disney characters, Disney should be awarded the damages equal to the amount of profit that they can prove was made from these character costumes at the location sited. If the amount of damage caused by this mom & pop operation is significantly less than a million dollars, this case brought by Disney should be thrown out and the related court costs expunged.

richard says:

There are a couple of facts that you are leaving out. First this couple was sent 3 cease and desist letters by Disney legal requesting that they stop using the costumes. Second the couples myspace and craigslist accounts for there business actively advertised them as having Disney characters. The couple acknowledged that they received, read and chose to ignored all three letters. The only one they paid attention to was the one that told them that they were being sued for 1 million dollars. Disney has one of the best legal departments in the world and this couple will get what is coming to them.

Hulser says:

Re: Re:

“There are a couple of facts that you are leaving out. First this couple was sent 3 cease and desist letters by Disney legal requesting that they stop using the costumes. Second the couples myspace and craigslist accounts for there business actively advertised them as having Disney characters.” – richard

Source? I read the article linked to in the article and there was no mention of cease and desist letters. In fact, the article describes them as being surprised when they got the letter saying that Disney was suing them. “Surprise” is hardly the right word to describe someone who’s received three cease and desist letters. I think anyone reading the MyFox Orlando article would have the same view of the story that TD did. You can blame MyFox Orlando for missing some of the relevent facts, but you can hardly blame TD for not searching Craigslist and MySpace or say that TD left out facts when the “facts” weren’t in the article being commented on.

richard says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:source

True but if any news organization, regardless of how small, is going to report on something and spin it so negatively toward one of the parties involved it is a good idea to have all the facts. In this particular case Techdirt did not have all the facts that were readily available to any man woman or child with access to Goggle.

John Frost (user link) says:

The facts...

There are some basic facts missing from your depiction of this case. It isn’t a party store reselling the fake-Disney costumes (which still would be illegal), but it was a couple running a small business using Disney character images on their website and myspace page for their party entertainment service. People would order ‘Disney Characters’ to show up at their party and instead receive these obvious knockoffs. I would be pretty upset as a customer and that’s probably how Disney found out about this infringement in the first place.

Disney asked that the couple take down all the images from their website and myspace page, which the couple didn’t do, and provide the costumes for destruction, which the couple didn’t do. So Disney took them to court.

Your facts on the origin of Mickey Mouse are also a bit off. The first Mickey Mouse film was Plane Crazy, but it was re-tooled to include sound after talkies became the big thing.

I don’t disagree that Walt Disney and nearly every other animator was inspired by other stories, fairy tales, and whatnot. No one is preventing anyone from retelling those stories, which is why you see tons of Snow White knock-off videos, but you are prevented from obviously copying Disney’s designs and trademarks.

Btw, I personally think Copyright protections have been extended too long for creative works. But Disney’s core character group is probably protected via Trademark protections, so don’t look for a public domain version of Mickey Mouse hitting the shelves soon.

My coverage on the issue is here:
http://thedisneyblog.com/2008/07/10/disney-files-1000000-lawsuit-against-family-party-business-for-use-of-pooh-characters

Harvey M says:

Disney is a joke

What is with Disney? I see Elvis ompersonators all across the US but poor Disney and their copy-righted characters that they stole from someone else. Articles like this make me stay away from buying anything from these gigantic corporations likeDisney, Microsoft, etc.
These mom and pop places actually promote the comapny as not every family can even come close to affording a Disney vacation. Disney sucks!

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