Disney is well known for taking its intellectual property rights seriously and defending their brand by suing anyone that dares to step on their toes. Most cases go unheard of as Disney has the money and resources to stop infringers in their tracks and very rarely can anyone ever stand up to the entertainment and media company. Last week however, it emerged that a business that goes by the name of Characters for Hire, LLC is fighting back after being sued by Disney which has filed papers seeking a summary judgment of the claim.
Characters for Hire, LLC is an entertainment company that provides characters for events. The company has a portfolio of actors, models and dancers that are used for entertainment purposes such as corporate events, parties and advertising. The company also has a number of Disney characters in its portfolio such as Elsa from Frozen and Darth Vader that are often used for children's parties. It is this discovery that has upset Disney who have stated, as reported in the Hollywood Reporter, that Characters for Hires business is 'built upon the infringement of Plaintiffs' highly valuable intellectual property rights'. Disney are arguing that Characters for Hire's use of Disney characters is an infringement of its copyright and trade marks despite attempts by Characters for Hire to make changes to some names, for example changing 'Star Wars' to 'Star Battles'.
Characters for Hire have also argued that some of the characters in its portfolio, such as Thor and Snow White, are characters from old fairy tales and that they have therefore not infringed upon Disney's intellectual property as these characters are not specific to Disney but are rather in the public domain. In addition to this Characters for Hire have argued, in regards to the allegations of trade mark infringement, that there is no likelihood of confusion from the public between the marks of Characters for Hire and Disney though Disney maintain that any use of these marks will damage the positive association that people have with Disney.
Disney are unlikely to back down easily given their historic stance on infringement. It will be interesting to see whether Disney can convince the judge that their reputation will be tarnished through the activity of Characters for Hire LLC.Posted by: in: Copyright, EU/International, Trade Marks