View Full Version : California judge lets family keep Winnie the Pooh

02-16-2007, 04:38 PM
California judge lets family keep Winnie the Pooh
Fri Feb 16, 2007 3:58pm ET

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.

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.

Slesinger's widow and daughter have been battling Disney in California state court for more than a decade over what they claim are billions in unpaid royalties from Pooh, which generated more than $6 billion in retail sales in 2005.

That state court case is on appeal and a settlement does not appear likely.

"If there were a reasonable view of their royalty interest, we could settle it in a heartbeat," Petrocelli said.

The federal case also appears at a standstill as a result of Thursday's ruling.

The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear the federal case and let stand decisions by two lower courts that Clare Milne could not void a 1983 agreement renewing the Slesingers' license.

Cooper's order on Thursday rejected similar claims by Shepard's granddaughter, Harriet Jessie Minette Hunt, who must now decide whether to appeal the case, Petrocelli said.

Stephen Slesinger, a New York television and film producer, obtained the exclusive merchandising and other rights to the Pooh works from A.A. Milne in 1930.

Slesinger and Milne's widow passed those rights to Disney in 1961 in exchange for royalties from the sale of Pooh products.

The Slesingers last month also filed a claim with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, seeking to cancel a number of trademarks they claim Disney illegally took out on Pooh.

02-17-2007, 08:39 AM
Disney loses round in Pooh case

Bloomberg News | Posted February 17, 2007

Walt Disney Co. lost a federal court ruling in its 16-year-old battle over the rights to the Winnie the Pooh characters.

U.S. District Judge Florence-Marie Cooper of Los Angeles, in an order filed Thursday, granted a request by Stephen Slesinger Inc., ruling that Disney and the granddaughter of the Pooh books' illustrator can't challenge Slesinger's claims to the rights.

The decision means Slesinger and Disney won't go to trial in April over the legitimacy of a 1983 licensing agreement, Andrew Skale, a lawyer for closely held Slesinger, said Friday. The ruling was filed under seal.

Disney, first in conjunction with the granddaughter of Pooh creator A.A. Milne and now with the granddaughter of original Pooh illustrator Ernest Shepard, has been trying to terminate Slesinger's rights to the characters under a 199copyright law. Slesinger acquired the rights from Milne in 1930.

02-20-2007, 03:13 PM
Didn't Sears Roebuck have some kind of exclusive Pooh deal?

I remember as a kid only being able to buy Pooh merchandise at Sears and the characters appearing at the store. This would have been the 70s and 80s.