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  1. #1

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    Slesinger Family Wins 'Pooh' Copyright Case - 2/16/07

    Slesinger Family Press Release

    Slesinger Family Wins 'Pooh" Copyright Case



    Federal Court Grants Summary Judgment Against Disney Slesinger Pursuing Damages Against Disney Including Terminating US and Canadian Television, Media and Merchandising Rights to Winnie the Pooh

    LOS ANGELES, Feb. 16 -- Federal District Judge Florence-Marie Cooper, of the United States District Court, Central District, issued a major decision in the federal copyright case, granting Stephen Slesinger, Inc.'s Motion for Summary Judgment, effectively ending the Walt Disney Company's efforts to take back the Winnie the Pooh copyright.

    Barry Slotnick, Slesinger's attorney from the law firm of Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney, said, "The Court once again has once ruled that Disney's claims against Slesinger are improper. Now that Disney's misguided claims have been dismissed, we can focus on pursuing Slesinger's claims against Disney for damages, trademark and copyright infringement, breach of contract, and fraudulently underpaying royalties, and seeking in excess of $2 billion in compensatory and general damages. We applaud the granting of our motion for summary judgment."

    "In 2003, the U.S. district court in Los Angeles held there was no basis whatsoever for the first of two termination notices secured by Disney under the Copyright Act from the granddaughters of author A.A. Milne and one of the illustrators of his Winnie the Pooh stories. Now, the other shoe has dropped. The Court held there is no basis for the other termination notice instigated by Disney. The fact that the Court has now held that there is no need even for a trial concerning either termination notice shows that Disney had no business starting this lawsuit in the first place. The bottom line is that Disney's attempt to evade its royalty obligations to Slesinger has failed," said Roger Zissu, of the law firm of Fross Zelnick Lehrman & Zissu, P.C.

    "It was Disney's attempt to take back the rights granted to my father over 70 years ago that led this case into federal court. Perhaps Disney might have spent their time merchandising Winnie the Pooh worldwide instead of attempting this scheme to take back what the court has thankfully ruled has been the Slesinger's all along: the rights to Winnie the Pooh," said Pati Slesinger.

    In addition to the state case, Stephen Slesinger, Inc., has petitioned the United States Trademark and Patents Office seeking cancellation of a number of trademarks taken out by Disney on Winnie the Pooh based on the allegation that Disney had no legal right to do.
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  2. #2

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    Re: Slesinger Family Wins 'Pooh' Copyright Case - 2/16/07

    From a legal stand point, I really don't have a clue what all this about. Could some one please tell me what all of this means?
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    Re: Slesinger Family Wins 'Pooh' Copyright Case - 2/16/07

    What are they going to do about the ride?

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    Re: Slesinger Family Wins 'Pooh' Copyright Case - 2/16/07

    Hello everyone... just joined the forum.

    I thought this lawsuit was thrown out of the court with prejudice (meaning the same charge could not be tried again) in 2004 in favor of Disney. Is it more than one ongoing issue that's going on, or what?

    Here is the article from April 1, 2004
    Disney Wins Fight Over Pooh Royalties


    <!--begin page--><!--begin paragraph-->A 13-year royalty lawsuit between The Walt Disney Co. and Stephen Slesinger, Inc. ended abruptly this week in Los Angeles, according to news reports.

    Stephen Slesinger, Inc., a family-owned company that controls some of Winnie the Pooh merchandise rights, claimed that Disney owed it hundreds of millions of dollars in royalties. The judge dismissed the case, citing the accuser's use of a private detective hired to retrieve confidential Disney documents from the company's trash without notifying Disney lawyers.

    In its suit, Tampa, FL-based Slesinger claimed that Disney had underpaid royalties owed under the 1983 renewal of a licensing agreement originally struck in the early 1960s. Slesinger claimed that Disney should have been paying royalties not just on plush and other merchandise, but also on sales of VHS tapes and DVDs, products that either didn't exist or weren't explicitly included in the 1983 deal, the reports said.

    Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Charles W. McCoy Jr. dismissed the case with prejudice, meaning Slesinger can't bring legal action on the same claim again.

    Winnie the Pooh, the lovable character created by author A.A. Milne and illustrator E.H. Shepard in the 1920s, means big business for Disney. Annual retail sales of Pooh merchandise are $5.9 billion, surpassing sales of Disney's trademark character, Mickey Mouse. Disney has said that losing the case would have cost hundreds of millions of dollars, at a minimum.

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    Re: Slesinger Family Wins 'Pooh' Copyright Case - 2/16/07

    Okay, here's a little more insight for those interested... the news release above sounds a little more severe than what it really is... A.A. Milne's grand daughter lauched a lawsuit for the rights to be stripped from the Slesinger's and reassigned to Disney. That lawsuit was dismissed... it can still be appealed. The judgement made does not effect Disney's rights to Winnie the Pooh at all. Here's some more info from Reuters:


    LOS ANGELES, Feb 16 (Reuters) - A federal judge in Los Angeles has rejected a Walt Disney Co.-backed attempt to strip rights to the "Winnie the Pooh" character from the estate of long-time Pooh licensee Stephen Slesinger, according to court documents made public on Friday.

    In a written order issued on Thursday, U.S. District Judge Florence-Marie Cooper granted the Slesingers' motion to dismiss the case, in which the granddaughters of Pooh author A.A. Milne and illustrator E.H. Shepard, sued to terminate the Slesingers' rights to the character and reassign them to Disney (DIS.N: Quote, Profile , Research).
    Disney was not a party to the case, but the company paid legal expenses for both women, according to Disney's attorney Daniel Petrocelli.

    Petrocelli said the ruling "has no bearing whatsoever on Disney's rights to Pooh," nor on a 2004 California state court judgment dismissing the Slesingers' long-standing royalty claims against Disney.

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    Re: Slesinger Family Wins 'Pooh' Copyright Case - 2/16/07

    Hmmmm. I'm not really sure what this all means. From the one article I was able to find, it looks like Disney was trying to get out of its royalty obligations on Pooh (Disney doesn't own Pooh, the Slesinger's do). I'm looking forward to hearing more about this case and what it ultimately means for Disney and where they go from here.:

    "In 2003, the U.S. district court in Los Angeles held there was no basis whatsoever for the first of two termination notices secured by Disney under the Copyright Act from the granddaughters of author A.A. Milne and one of the illustrators of his Winnie the Pooh stories. Now, the other shoe has dropped. The Court held there is no basis for the other termination notice instigated by Disney. The fact that the Court has now held that there is no need even for a trial concerning either termination notice shows that Disney had no business starting this lawsuit in the first place. The bottom line is that Disney's attempt to evade its royalty obligations to Slesinger has failed," said Roger Zissu, of the law firm of Fross Zelnick Lehrman & Zissu, P.C.
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    Re: Slesinger Family Wins 'Pooh' Copyright Case - 2/16/07

    Thanks for the info ps1082, and welcome to MiceChat!
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    Re: Slesinger Family Wins 'Pooh' Copyright Case - 2/16/07

    Quote Originally Posted by ps1082 View Post
    Okay, here's a little more insight for those interested... the news release above sounds a little more severe than what it really is...
    Actually, no. Disney tried to take copyright of Pooh away from the Slesinger family, which would have guaranteed no royalties paid out to them in the future. Disney would have been able to pocket more cash from Pooh, had they won the copyright.

    And with the family's request of $2 billion in damages because of Disney's attempt to grab the Pooh copyright, they ain't outta the Hundred Acre Woods of Judgments yet.
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    Re: Slesinger Family Wins 'Pooh' Copyright Case - 2/16/07

    Quote Originally Posted by tahoebob54 View Post
    From a legal stand point, I really don't have a clue what all this about. Could some one please tell me what all of this means?
    Basically,

    The people that owns the rights to Winnie the Pooh (Shlesinger) have been saying that
    WDC owes them the royalties from VHS and DVDs and PC games.

    WDC saids that since they weren't written down in the original contract (from
    back in the 60s), they don't owe anything and WDC got the grandchildren of
    A. A. Milne to sue Shlesinger to assign the rights to WDC.

    This whole business has been going on for long time (I guess 13 years from the article).

    I'm actually not sure where this is at, but sounds like the coutersuit got overturned

    Not a lawyer, so probably need a lawyer like Froggy to sort this out... :-)

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    Re: Slesinger Family Wins 'Pooh' Copyright Case - 2/16/07

    Well, I don't mean Disney is completely in the clear. However, just because Slesinger is claiming 2 billion in damages, does not mean they'll get that or anything close to that. I just see this as one case that will likely never end. Also, just a side note... this lawsuit that was just dismissed, Disney was not a party to. The lawsuit was filed by the grand daughter of A.A. Milne, not Disney... Disney did pay for the fees, etc., but Disney was not a party involved in the lawsuit. Ultimately, they would have been a beneficiary had Mrs. Milne won, but they had no legal involvement in this particular suit.

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    Re: Slesinger Family Wins 'Pooh' Copyright Case - 2/16/07

    Quote Originally Posted by nish221 View Post
    The people that owns the rights to Winnie the Pooh (Shlesinger) have been saying that
    WDC owes them the royalties from VHS and DVDs and PC games.
    Different issue, different legal case.

    This case from today was Disney's attempt to take away the copyright of Pooh, which the Slesinger family has held for eons, away from the Slesingers. And Disney failed.

    WDC will still have to pay royalties to the family in the future, not to mention eat the legal cost of going after them, along with paying whatever settlement is awarded the Slesinger family in damages from Disney's legal actions.

    I'm guessing Disney will lose at least $1 billion in total costs to the company from their copyright takeover attempt.
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    Re: Slesinger Family Wins 'Pooh' Copyright Case - 2/16/07

    Quote Originally Posted by ps1082 View Post
    Ultimately, they would have been a beneficiary had Mrs. Milne won, but they had no legal involvement in this particular suit.
    Disney was backing her efforts, for obvious reasons. I believe they were 'bankrolling' her legal fees, so to speak.
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  13. #13

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    Re: Slesinger Family Wins 'Pooh' Copyright Case - 2/16/07

    A.A. Milne is probably spinning in his grave.

    This lawsuit has been one big mess in my opinion.

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    Re: Slesinger Family Wins 'Pooh' Copyright Case - 2/16/07

    Quote Originally Posted by Disney Wrassler View Post
    A.A. Milne is probably spinning in his grave.

    This lawsuit has been one big mess in my opinion.
    Absolutely. Look at how Disney pumped up Milne's granddaughter's hopes of taking the copyright away from the Slesinger family, by helping her go after it. She was willing to cut Disney a better licensing deal had she succeeded, so all Disney could see were those royalty savings, had she won the case.

    This situation is far from over. What a mess is right.
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    Re: Slesinger Family Wins 'Pooh' Copyright Case - 2/16/07

    Quote Originally Posted by Disney Wrassler View Post
    A.A. Milne is probably spinning in his grave.
    Not really, he sold the rights... He needed the money... No body knew that his characters would actually be bigger and more profitable than Mickey Mouse a the beginning of the 21'st century...
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