Disney's IP Issues - Fordham Intellectual Property, Media & Entertainment Law Journal
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Disney’s IP Issues

Disney’s IP Issues

The Walt Disney Company has been making headlines lately due to trademark and copyright issues.

Firstly, Deadmau5, a DJ also known as Joel Zimmerman, has come under fire by the entertainment giant for trying to trademark his signature costume, a mouse head. Disney has tried to take legal action to prohibit the trademark, stating that it is too similar to Disney’s logo, Mickey Mouse. They explain that their demographic is mostly made of younger children, and they would easily be confused by the mouse head logo as it is similar in shape to the Mickey Mouse symbol. However, some IP experts state that Disney’s argument may be weakened by the fact that it has not opposed Deadmau5 trademarking his head in any other country.

Zimmerman has taken to his Twitter account to vent to his 3 million followers about how “stupid” he thought Disney’s opposition was. Disney had offered the DJ a chance to remix the Star Wars theme for an upcoming Disney made Star Wars animated series. This would have provided massive exposure for the EDM artist. Following Zimmerman’s tweets this offer was revoked.

Zimmerman also discovered that his song “Ghosts ‘n’ stuff” was being used in a video on the Walt Disney Company website, and stated this violated copyright.  Disney then took the video down, though a Disney spokesperson said that the music was legally licensed.

This isn’t the first IP dispute Zimmerman has been involved in this year.  The DJ is known for his Ferrari, which he modified with designs of the “Nyan Cat” a well-known subject of a YouTube video that has gained popularity.  Ferrari has since sent a cease-and-desist letter to Zimmerman regarding his so-called “Purrari” stating that the modification tarnishes the Ferarri image.

Secondly, Disney is facing opposition regarding its smash hit Frozen. A New Jersey author, Isabella Tanikumi is claiming that the animated movie is based on her life, more specifically, her books Living My Truth and Yearning of the Heart, which are her life stories.

She claims both books relate to the theme of sister relationships found in the movie. She further alleges both stories involve an older sister who accidentally hurt the younger sister, the younger sister losing her memory, and two male characters named Hans and Christoff.  However, many have speculated when you say the names of the three male characters in Frozen quickly (“Hans, Kristoff and Sven”), it is supposed to sound like the author, Hans Kristian Anderson, who wrote “The Snow Queen” which Frozen is loosely based off of.

The author is seeking a permanent injunction to stop the sales, distribution, and marketing of Frozen in any way, as well as damages in the amount of $250,000,000. Some speculate that this suit has come about because Frozen is the highest earning animated movie of all time.

As of now the author has not made a claim that her books also include a talking snowman or magical freezing powers.

To read more about the battle with Deadmau5 check out the Billboard website: http://www.billboard.com/articles/news/6251375/why-deadmau5-trademark-battle-with-disney-has-cost-him-dearly

To read more about the Frozen lawsuit check out Entertainment Weekly’s website:

http://insidemovies.ew.com/2014/09/26/disney-frozen-lawsuit/

 

Robert Iodice

Robert Iodice is a second year law student at Fordham University School of Law and a staff member of Fordham's Intellectual Property, Media & Entertainment Law Journal.