Image via WikipediaIf only the Walt Disney Co. and the Slesinger family got along as well as Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, Piglet, Eeyore and the rest of the Hundred Acre Wood denizens.
Last week, the titanic 18-year struggle between Stephen Slesinger, Inc. and Disney came to an end in the Los Angeles courtroom of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California where Judge Florence-Marie Cooper allowed Disney's summary judgment motion to dismiss Slesinger's outstanding trademark infringement, copyright infringement, trade dress, and violation of Calif. Bus. and Prof. Code sec.17200 claims concerning the former Edward Bear a/k/a Winnie the Pooh (Claire Milne, by and through Michael Joseph Coyne, Receiver & Disney Enterprises, Inc. v. Stephen Slesinger, Inc., Case No. 2:02-cv-08508).
The Slesinger brood, which acquired the merchandising rights to Pooh and the rest of author A.A. Milne's characters in 1930, first sued Disney in 1991. Disney has registered at least 15 Pooh-related trademarks in the U.S and has registered 59 works featuring Pooh characters with the U.S. Copyright Office. Slesinger's widow transferred Pooh rights to Disney in 1961 in exchange for royalties.
Over the years, the Slesinger family claimed Disney shortchanged them on royalties, first claiming they were owed $700 million, and in a subsequent suit, alleged $2 billion in damages and royalties were due them.
Judge Cooper found the transfer of rights by Slesinger to Disney to be complete, thereby foreclosing any trademark or copyright infringement assertions. The end result of the long-time courtroom fracas is that Disney and Slesinger will continue to do business, with the latter receiving payment of royalties from the former.
Silly old litigants.