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Judge Denies Disney Rights to Pooh

16 Feb, 2007 By: Erik Gruenwedel

A U.S. District Court judge in Los Angeles Feb. 16 denied a motion by the heirs of the creator and an illustrator of Winnie the Pooh to take back the North American license rights of the popular character they assigned to a literary agent in 1983.

Judge Florence-Marie Cooper granted the heirs of literary agent Stephen Slesinger summary judgment to dismiss the case.

The Walt Disney Co., whose marketing of the Pooh brand in DVDs, movies and toys has generated billions in revenue, was not an official party to the case.

The media giant did reportedly pay the plaintiffs' — granddaughters of Pooh author A.A. Milne and illustrator E.H. Shepard — legal fees.

At issue still are royalties on billions of dollars in revenue, which Disney claims excludes DVD and video proceeds that the Slesinger heirs contend are part of a longstanding licensing agreement.

A lawyer representing Slesinger's heirs said the decision underscored his clients' rights to Pooh.

“Now that Disney's misguided claims have been dismissed, we can focus on pursuing Slesinger's claims against Disney for copyright infringement,” said attorney Barry Slotnick.

He said his clients intend to seek more than $2 billion in compensatory and general damages.

Daniel Petrocelli, the lawyer representing Disney, was unavailable for comment.

Reuters reported that a California judge in 2004 threw out a previous royalties claim by Slesinger against Disney.

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