Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Disney Losing The Pooh Battle

A.A. Milne invented the character of Winnie the Pooh (and his friends).  In the 1930s the rights were sold to a man by the name of Slesinger, and in the 1960s his wife licensed them to Disney in exchange for royalties.  Somewhere around 1991, when Pooh was more popular than Mickey Mouse, Disney apparently stopped paying.  Slesinger has been trying to get her money ever since.

In a fascinating legal maneuver, Disney apparently went to the Milne and Shepard estates (via the granddaughters) and paid for them to file a copyright lawsuit that would eradicate Slesinger's claim to the Pooh brand.  Of course part of the deal was that if they won, they would promptly assign all of the rights to Disney in what I'm sure would be a deal on much better terms than the one that Disney has with Slesinger.  This is like something out of an old science fiction time travel movie.  If you made a mistake in 1960, then go back to 1930 and fix it so that the 1960 deal could never have happened!  Brilliant!

Nice try, Disney.

The judge threw out the case.  Milne had no case since in 1983 her father, Christopher Robin himself, had approved of the renewal of the Slesinger license.  It was Shepard's claim that was dismissed this week.

Slesinger's attorneys claim that damages could be upwards of $2 billion.


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