We’ve all seen them. The Mickey and Minnie that show up at children’s birthday parties, slightly resembling the originals but off just enough to make them creepy looking. Now Disney is taking issue with these knockoffs and has even filed a lawsuit against a New York company, Characters for Hire.
Lawsuits against unlicensed use of studio’s characters happen all too often, but this lawsuit is unique. Although Characters for Hire does not call their characters by the same names as Disney’s trademarked and copyrighted names, Disney states the ‘Defendants have admitted to changing at least the following names and titles in their customers’ reviews: Luke/Darth experience to Star Battle, Star Wars storyline to Star Battles story line, Darth Vader to Dark Lord, Star Wars to Star Battle9(s), Darth Maul to Mauler, Princess Leia to the Princess, and Chewbacca to Big Hairy Guy.’ There are disclaimers from Characters for Hire stating that the characters aren’t associated with Disney or its affiliates, but that hasn’t stopped Disney from continuing with the suit.
The owner of the small party entertainment company, Nick Sarelli, has obtained legal counsel, who quickly points out that Disney often uses stories that are public domain, so they can’t claim full ownership rights to the characters. The law firm handling the case, Feldman Law group, states that ‘centuries-old fairy tales and folk tales, like Cinderella, Snow White, Rapunzel, Aladdin, and Princess Aurora do not infringe upon any original expression added by Plaintiffs to these public domain characters.’
What do you think about this? Is Disney right to sue or should they just leave it alone? Let us know in the comments.