To say that the Walt Disney Company is known for the fierce protection of its intellectual property (copyright, trademarks, etc) is probably the understatement of the year. So I was not surprised when they asked musician Deadmau5 (aka Joel Zimmerman) not to trademark his ‘trademark’ DJ costume. Like the name implies, it resembles a mouse. Disney has a trademark on the look and feel of Mickey Mouse so they were understandably worried. But the two really don’t have anything in common other than what mice naturally share (ears, eyes, and a mouth).
I think Disney might be making a mountain out of a molehill on this one. As a creature, a mouse is pretty ubiquitous. No one, even an idiot in a hurry, is going to confuse the technopunk Deadmau5 headpiece with the classic Mickey Mouse silhouette. Letting Zimmerman have his intellectual property appear on toys, clothing, or other products will in no way harm Disney’s vast wealth in the same arena.
Since I expect Deadmau5 to win pretty handily in court, I’ve been paying attention to the case only loosely. But a story in The Hollywood Reporter today, caught my attention. Turns out, while one arm of Disney was preparing to sue Deadmau5, another appendage was asking him to collaborate.
Disney’s music division asked him if he wanted to produce some music for Disney’s new animated series Star Wars Rebels. But he lost that opportunity because of the dispute. Disney, through a third party, also offered him the opportunity of contributing to a live concert series commemorating the 75th anniversary of Fantasia. In the invitation, Disney’s business partner states:
“Deadmau5 is the most innovative musician of our time, and Disney the most successful entertainment brand to ever exist. Bringing these two visionaries together, with this particular franchise, provides for an incredible opportunity that could touch millions of people around the world.”
They even sent Deadmau5 a mockup of his intellectual property combined with Disneys iconic Sorcerer Mickey (above).
A Note on Sources
The following article is based primarily on documents on file with the Superior Court of California, County of Orange in the case of The People of The State of California vs. Larry James Allred and Robert Edward Smyrak, 11NF1191.
My research in these was supplemented by telephone interviews with the defense attorneys involved (I thank them for taking the time to speak with me); law enforcement press releases; public record searches; and, in a few instances, previous media reports from reputable news-gathering organizations such as the Los Angeles Times.—Mike Bastoli
eptember 29, 2011 was not a good day for Robert Edward Smyrak. At 8:00 AM in Courtroom N3 of the North Justice Center in Fullerton, California, the 52-year-old Anaheim man appeared before Judge Nicholas Thompson of the Superior Court of California, Orange County to receive his sentence.
Smyrak, who goes by Bob, was pleading guilty to one count of felony trademark infringement. The penalty, at least as paper, would be one year in jail, three years probation, plus restitution. In truth, because of overcrowding in California’s prisons, he would serve out his sentence entirely at home, through supervised house arrest. But it was still, to be sure, an unfortunate turn of events for the IT operations manager whose most serious prior conviction was for using a cell phone behind the wheel.
Smyrak’s journey into California’s madhouse corrections system had begun, at least in earnest, in the early days of 2010, with a little help from a friend, Larry James Allred, then aged 56 and a resident of nearby Walnut.
This lawsuit against the Walt Disney Company for allegedly failing to meet the minimum standards set forth by the American Disabilities Act required to accommodate blind visitors to its parks and websites has been working its way through the courts for a long time. However, the a Federal Judge has just certified a class action lawsuit against Disney clearing the way for the company to potentially face a lot more damages.
The chief complaints, mostly against the Parks & Resorts division are:
1) Disney does not provide schedules, menus and maps in formats which are accessible to blind persons, such as in Braille, large print, or electronic form;
2) Disney does not accommodate the needs of guide dogs;
3) Disney does not accommodate the needs of blind persons during live parades and shows;
4) Disney does not permit any discounted admission for sighted companions who must accompany and support blind persons in the theme parks; and
5) Disney’s websites do not accommodate blind persons who use screen reader programs to access information.
I’m not a lawyer, thus this is just my layman’s observation, so take it with a large grain of salt. I think Disney stands heads and shoulders above almost every other theme park in the USA. However, are they perfect when it comes to ADA compliance? No. As far as point #1, I think Disney can easily refute that (at least in Orlando) as they provide a great mobile tool that provides almost all of that (and there are definitely braille maps in the parks). For #2, while I’ve not had a guide dog myself, Disney has no issues at all with guide dogs in their parks, I see them all the time. There might be some safety reasons while a dog cannot accompany a rider on certain rides, but you have to put safety first. Plus certain rides will be grandfathered in where changes would change the nature of the attraction. As to #3, see #1. With regards to #4, if this is something the law requires, I would be surprised if Disney does not provide it. #5, this appears to be most valid complaint. But then again, it’s a complaint that’s valid against most every website. Targeting Disney is a high visibility move for the cause. I know Disney is rolling out an updated website for Disney.com, so perhaps that will be included then. So, yes, Disney does have room for improvement, but does it rise to the level of a lawsuit? I guess a Federal Judge thinks so.
The full text of the press release is below the jump: