If you’re thinking of having “Iron Man” or a “Disney Princess” at your kids’s next birthday party, you might have a harder time finding one.
Disney has set a precedent by filing a lawsuit against a prominent provider of “iconic characters for themed events, such as children’s parties.” These characters include Darth Vader, Iron Man, Elsa, Anna and other Disney princesses.
According to the papers filed by Disney against Characters for Hire, LLC, the company is a “knock-off business … built upon the infringement of Plaintiffs’ highly valuable intellectual property rights,” and “provides unlicensed and poor quality appearances and performances.”
To avoid potential entanglements with Disney, the suit alleges that Characters for Hire changed the names of Disney-owned characters.
Characters for Hire tried using disclaimers how these characters weren’t associated with Disney, Marvel or Lucasfilm. That didn’t work. Not even attempts by defendants to use fake names in lieu of real ones have appeased Disney.
“Specifically,” states Disney’s summary judgment memo (here), “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 Battle(s),’ ‘Darth Maul’ to ‘Mauler,’ ‘Princess Leia’ to ‘the Princess,’ and ‘Chewbacca’ to ‘Big Hairy Guy.'”
I don’t know about you, but I don’t know if I’d feel comfortable having a “Big Hairy Guy” at my kid’s birthday party.
Characters for Hire’s lawyers argue that Disney can’t enforce trademarks on public domain fairy tale characters such as Snow White and Rapunzel.
To which Disney states “CFH’s provision of its knock-off characters is thus likely to damage customers’ positive associations with Plaintiffs’ marks (and those of their children).”
Now, if only Disney would do something about the brand-damaging Elsa and Spider-Man YouTube videos.Hollywood Reporter]
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