1709 Blog: for all the copyright community

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Disney victorious in copycat battle


Disney has won it’s battle with UK independent production company Brightspark Productions after claiming it was misleading consumers with a series of budget family DVDs which appear to be copycat versions of Disney's own popular animated films. The action came as the Brighton-based firm, launched ‘Braver’, which Disney said was similar to it's blockbuster ‘Brave’ in more than just it’s title. Other titles from Brightspark included ‘Tangled Up’ (Disney have ‘Tangled’) ‘Tappy Feet’ (errr, something like ‘Happy Feet’?), Little Cars, a cartoon with animated cars for younger viewers (rather like ‘Cars’ perhaps?)  and ‘The Frog Princess’ (Disney have 'The Princess and The Frog’). With Braver, Disney had complained that the graphics and artwork, including a red-haired princess in a green dress on the cover of the 45-minute "cartoon fairytale" closely resembled its own packaging. 'Braver' was in fact a repackaged version of a DVD released in 2005, called 'A Fairy Tale Christmas'. The title credits of the film marketed as 'Tangled Up' revealed the film's original title to be 'Britannica's Fairy Tales from Around the World'.

Back in September this year Disney sent Brightspark a cease-and-desist letter demanding that Brightspark Productions withdraw the DVDs from the market, or face legal action saying "People place great trust in the quality and creativity of Disney, and when it appears that another company is causing confusion among Disney consumers we will act to protect ourselves and the consumer. Disney believes Brightspark has demonstrated a pattern of misleading consumers with numerous releases that confuse and undermine the trust those consumers have in Disney."

Brightspark replied with the following statement. "All we've tried to do is give parents something their children will hopefully find entertaining. We came up with our title around 18 months ago and if we thought consumers would mistake our film for Brave, we would have renamed it." At the time the Company  said they were trying to find a "mutually acceptable" solution to Disney's complaint.

OK, I may be stretching it a bit to include this item on the 1709 Copyright Blog, and despite some searches, it was impossible to find any real detail of what the actual action was based on. Anything our readers can provide by way of background would be much appreciated. But news broke yesterday that Brightspark has been ordered to destroy all copycat DVDs which had been on sale at supermarket chains including Tesco and Sainsbury, and online with Amazon, usually retailing at less than £3 and the company admitted it's titles were "cheap and cheerful". Brightspark say that they have already stopped production and have told distributor Sony to destroy remaining stocks. They must pay £5,000 towards Disney’s costs.

UPDATE: I am reliably informed that Arnold & Porter acted for Disney and the claims in the High Court were for copyright, trade mark infringement and passing off, all of which were addressed in Arnold J's final order. My thanks. 

More on the Guardian here and the Evening Standard here 

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