I actually don't think that Disney's trademark opposition to Deadmau5's attempt to trademark his mouse-shaped helmet thing is that crazy. Disney hasn't gone after Deadmau5/Joel Zimmerman all these years for using it. They're just saying "hey, maybe he shouldn't have a registered trademark on that." And they may have a point. Yes, the designs are different, and no, there isn't likely to be much confusion between Deadmau5 and Mickey, but why is Deadmau5 seeking to get a registered trademark on this in the first place?
That said, if notorious copyright maximalists Disney were going to pick an intellectual property fight with someone, it would probably make sense to make sure their own mouse house is in order, no? Apparently, it's not, because Deadmau5 has discovered that... Disney (yes, I'll repeat that: Disney) has uploaded some of his music on its website without permission. The music was on a "re-micks" (ha ha, get it?) page on Disney's website that has since been taken down -- but not before Deadmau5's lawyers sent a takedown letter over it. The letter also, amusingly, makes a trademark claim, though frankly the trademark claim is quite weak. Deadmau5's lawyer is basically claiming trademark infringement over the video as well. That almost certainly wouldn't fly in court.
I tend to not be a fan of takedowns in general, but it's pretty clear that this is basically just being done to call out Disney's hypocrisy here. Not that I expect the message to get through. Still it's surprising that such a copyright maximalist company would be posting videos like that...
While he's right that the likelihood of confusion may not be that strong, it wouldn't actually be a surprise to see Disney win this. Disney has a big music business on its own, and Deadmau5's mouse head may be considered similar enough. I personally think it's silly, and the real likelihood that anyone thinks Deadmau5 is associated with Disney is pretty slim, but the USPTO doesn't always agree with me, and (again) "Mickey" has some powerful lawyers on his side.
Of course, it's not really a big deal if Disney succeeds here. All it would do is block Deadmau5 from having a registered trademark on the design, but that's neither necessary nor required. The real question is if Disney would go even further and attempt to block Deadmau5 from continuing to use the design. That... would be a lot more questionable.
Apparently Ferrari was none to pleased with the custom badges and associated floor mats on Deadmau5's 458 Italia Purrari. So much so that Ferrari North America sent the self-admitted button-pusher a cease and desist to have the custom emblems removed.
But that's Ferrari's m.o., apparently. Not only will it get testy about Pop Tart cats trailing rainbows, but it also won't let you sell its vehicles without its permission. The Right of First Refusal contract (posted at a Porsche enthusiasts forum) states that Ferrari, not the customer, gets to say who the car gets sold to.
Customer recognizes that the 430 is a limited-edition, high-performance vehicle and that it is the goal of both Ferrari and the Dealer to offer and sell such vehicles principally to Ferrari enthusiasts who are purchasing the vehicles for their own use, who intend to use the 430 and not for purposes of resale or price speculation. Customer further recognizes that, in the past, Ferrari vehicles like the 430, have frequently appreciated in value, such that used and "almost new" vehicles can be sold at prices substantially in excess of the original Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price. While there is no guarantee that the 430 will enjoy similar customer acceptance, and while Ferrari and the Dealer recognize Customer's ultimate right to enjoy any appreciation that may occur with respect to his/her vehicle, Customer acknowledges that Ferrari and Dealer have a legitimate interest in minimizing speculation in the 430, at least and the time of, and within reasonable time after, introduction of the vehicle. Customer, in particular, acknowledges that, in the past, excessive speculation in certain Ferrari vehicles has resulted in customer ill-will and can, under certain circumstances, expose Ferrari and/or Dealer to liabilities over which neither has control or recourse.
In order to address the foregoing concerns. Customer hereby grants to Dealer, as a material consideration for the opportunity to purchase a 430, an option to repurchase the 430 at its market value (but in no event more than the original Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price) at any time within two (2) years of the date of delivery of his/her 430, provided Customer decides to sell, lease or otherwise transfer possession the vehicle to a third-party during that period (the "Right of First Refusal"). Customer agrees to abide by this provision, and understands that, notwithstanding any other terms thereof, it constitutes an integrated and material part of the retail contract between Customer and Dealer.
To put this in the best light, Ferrari (and its licensed dealers) doesn't desire for the rich to become richer by flipping its vehicles. It apparently wants customers to drive the cars, not buy up a few with the hopes of profiting on the price appreciation. It's a noble thought, but it completely destroys the Right of First Sale. The contract says it recognizes the customer's "right" to "enjoy any appreciation," but then says the dealer gets first shot at repurchasing the Ferrari "at no higher than the "original MSRP." How often this clause is actually triggered is unknown, but it basically takes control of a very expensive vehicle out of the customer's hands for two years.
I'm not saying more money should mean more rights, but it would seem that those spending a small fortune for Ferrari's vehicles should at least be able to paint the vehicle like the General Lee and sell it to old money in Mississippi without the owner having to check with the dealer first or receive ludicrous cease-and-desist orders.
On Friday, Disney let it be known at the U.S. Trademark Office that it is investigating a trademark registration filed by Deadmau5 (pronounced "dead mouse").
Compare the above with Disney's infamous, undead mouse.
Sure, there's some comparison but it would take serious myopia to confuse the two. For one, Disney's exploitation of this iconic image has imprinted it on the minds (and wallets) of millions of people worldwide. Plus, every piece of merchandise marketed by the Disney Corporation also contains its equally ubiquitous Disney scrawl, letting the purchaser know that they're paying too much for this otherwise unremarkable product.
But to hold a trademark means defending it, even when "defending" more often resembles "attacking" and when a moron in a hurry not only wouldn't be confused, but would bypass both products in his haste to spread ignorance at the nearest water cooler/house party/comment thread. It's totally within Disney's rights to contest this, and to protect its most cherished piece of IP, there's no way it won't. As far as Disney is concerned, there's only one mouse logo in the world and it already owns it.
deadmau5 (pronounced 'dead mouse') is a great example for artists that want to make it in the music business. He is famed for his great production and unique style, which helped get him noticed and separated from the crowd. That's a good thing, because then it's worth talking about. What's remarkable about deadmau5 stretches further than his unique production style and performances (he wears this huge mouse-mask on his head). His level of engagement with his ecosystem (or fanbase, if you will) is exemplary.
Minecraft has been talked about before on Techdirt. Back in November, deadmau5 set up his own server for this sandbox-game in which players can craft their own world. His fans love it, and deadmau5 regularly pops in to hang out with them in 'mau5ville.' In a way, both deadmau5 and his fans emerge themselves in fan art. There are tons of videos of mau5ville online, so you can take a tour. One user even used the game's tools to make a cover of a song by deadmau5, which deadmau5 then shared with over 2 million of his fans. Other artists sometimes prefer to go the way of a takedown notice when a fan puts his energy into making fan art -- but deadmau5 prefers to promote it. You can see both videos below:
However, deadmau5 is not like other artists, and recently he showed this by buying about 20 Minecraft accounts and posting the gift codes on his Facebook page. He understands that having fun with your fanbase and spending a little money on it can be much more important than telling them to buy your music. He listens to his fans, and he informs them when they can buy new music, because that's what his fans want. But it's about more than just pushing what you have to buy.
In the beginning of December, deadmau5' marketing team decided they should get involved in communicating to his fans.
Apparently deadmau5 didn't like the fact that his management was disturbing the trust and rapport he had built up with the ecosystem, because those status updates were followed by deadmau5's:
Then he checked the backend of his Facebook page…
Excellent choice, in my opinion. This is the best thing he could do to earn back the trust of the ecosystem, because you really don't want to get on the bad side of the ecosystem. The ecosystem can reject you, the ecosystem can move on, the ecosystem doesn't need YOU in order to survive.
And the cool thing is, he wasn't thinking about marketing or self-preservation or strategy in the process of making his choices. It's just him, genuinely. And I guess the status update he posted 1 minute later shows just that:
It looks like deadmau5 recognizes his fans have more value than just a few purchases. Instead of complaining that his fans should buy his album for 15 euros, he is actually buying them Minecraft accounts for 15 euros a piece. This might be hard to understand for his management and a lot of other people in the industry, because if fans are free, how can they have value?