U.S. Appeals Court Affirms Disney Win Against Evel Knievel Estate Over Toy Story Character
from the kaboom dept
I guess I shouldn’t be shocked, but the trademark and publicity rights dispute between Disney and K&K Promotions, the company that manages the rights for the late stuntman Evel Knievel, was still ongoing until recently. If you’re not aware of what I’m talking about, the movie Toy Story 4 included a character named Duke Caboom, a toy motorcycle stuntman that certainly had some characteristics that were an homage to Knievel. Not just Knievel, though, and that’s the important bit. Instead, the character had its own backstory, name, and imagery, all of which borrowed from several stuntmen from that era.
But K&K decided that it was all Knievel and sued over trademark and publicity rights. That case ended with a dismissal, correctly assessing that the movie was a creative work, therefore applying the Rogers test, in which deference is given to the creative work protected by the First Amendment. Since the court assessed that the character was a compilation of period references to stuntmen, again with his own backstory, name, and likeness, there was no trademark or publicity rights concern.
But K&K apparently appealed the decision for reasons that are entirely beyond me. The U.S. Appeals Court has now affirmed that ruling, finding for Disney yet again.
A U.S. appeals court on Monday upheld a ruling that the daredevil character Duke Caboom from Disney’s “Toy Story 4” did not unlawfully copy Evel Knievel’s persona. The 1st Amendment protects Disney’s work from a lawsuit brought by the owner of the late Knievel’s intellectual property, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said.
I’ll embed the ruling below, but it’s basically a full affirmation of what the lower court ruled. The trademark claim is not a thing because of the character’s creative element to the overall creative work, the public wouldn’t somehow think that Knievel or K&K were endorsing the movie, and all of this irrelevant anyway because Caboom is a fictional character.
“Even if the character may be generically reminiscent of Knievel to some extent, the district court properly concluded that it is not a literal depiction, and instead shares general features basic to stuntmen,” the panel said in a jointly written opinion.
One would hope this would be the end of all this. The fight is over, Knievel is dead, and Disney can write stories about fictional stunt people all it wants.