A Court of Very Little Brain?
No, just the Ninth Circuit, in this case denying the appeal in the Winnie the Pooh litigation over the IP and licensing rights of the lovable, bankable bear. It’s not so good news for Disney, actually, which is good news for Disney, because after all it is the Ninth Circuit and yes, there will be an appeal. But for now, the mouse takes a little bit of the cheese, as is his greedy wont in matters of copyright, but has to give a cut to the Slesingers. Here’s the heart of the LA Times report:
A federal appeals court on Thursday denied an attempt by the granddaughter of “Winnie-the-Pooh” author A.A. Milne to reclaim merchandising rights for the honey-loving bear from a Beverly Hills family.
The ruling, in effect, requires Walt Disney Co. to continue paying its longtime legal adversary, Pati Slesinger, royalties from Pooh products.
The Slesinger family sued Disney in 1991, claiming that the Burbank entertainment giant had cheated family members out of millions of dollars since they granted Disney their Pooh rights in 1961.
That lawsuit was dismissed last year. Thursday’s ruling, by a panel of three judges of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, came in a separate case.
In 2002, Milne’s granddaughter, Clare Milne, attempted to reclaim Pooh merchandising rights under U.S. copyright law. The same day, Clare Milne entered into a new agreement with Disney, assigning those rights to the company.
In 2003, a federal court judge blocked Clare Milne’s attempts to wrest licensing rights from the Slesingers. Thursday’s ruling upheld the lower court’s finding.
The ruling also noted that although Disney was not a party to the appeal, Disney had agreed to pay for Clare Milne’s litigation.
Good stuff! The New York Law Journal (sub. required) has a good article detailing the suit in fine and profiling Roger Zissu, the Fross Zelnick partner who’s been paining Disney all these years. Here’s the actual opinion. There’s a useful site that collects stories related to this litigation right here, too.
Be that as it may, and to whatever extent you can follow the above, evidently Disney has enough rights and enough wiggle room to have announced yesterday that it’s going to remake the Hundred Acre Wood gang by dispatching the — admittedly hard to take for this 21st-century American — fey Christopher Robin and replacing him with “a six-year-old tomboyish girl.” E! Online reports:
Lesley Milne, widow of Christopher Robin Milne, says her late husband would be pleased.
“He hated the character Christopher Robin and Winnie-the-Pooh and Disney,” she told London Times. “He detested the whole set-up so much that I don’t think he would have minded the loss.”
Can you feel the love?
A good rundown of the struggle over what has quietly become one of the world’s biggest IP honeypots can be found here.
UPDATE: Is it all over, hunny?