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Disney Attempts to Trademark Princess Aurora


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#31 MJ

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Posted 26 June 2010 - 10:59 AM

How does the Patent office offer a name trademark on a European Fairy Tale Character's name? I could see trademarking a likeness to the Cartoon Character, but not the name.

I would also blame the Cultural cluelessness at the USPTO.

#32 sidwich

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Posted 26 June 2010 - 08:28 PM

I think the family of Tchaikovsky should trademark the name "Princess Aurora" and the their music in Russia. The French Should Trademark the Name "Sleeping Beauty" and "Beauty and the Beast" as a French Cultural institution.


I'm sure Disney had to license the music from the Tchaikovsky estate when the film was made, although ironically, the Tchaikovsky-derived music in the film's score is probably now protected under copyright as a derivative work. Who knows what the contract with the Tchaikovsky estate states, though.

But the real issue from the Disney perspective is that they use the princess characters as "marks" of the Disney corporation. It's probably saying something twisted about our society, but the princess characters (Snow White, Cinderella, Jasmine, the Little Mermaid, etc.) are some of the most popular characters at Disney amusement parks, and are used to extort money from parents of little girls in just about every way possible. There is no way that Disney is not going to protect that very lucrative franchise at all costs.

If the works were in public domain, there would probably an interesting copyright question about use of characters if the Tchaikovsky estate were to try to protect "Princess Aurora" in some way. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's estate was able to block Spielberg and Christopher Columbus from releasing "Young Sherlock Holmes" during the 1980's because they did not license the Sherlock Holmes character from the Conan Doyle estate when they made the film, but I that that was a copyright case and the Conan Doyle stories had not fallen into public domain at the time.

Realistically, though, I doubt Disney will be able to enforce their mark against pre-existing ballets and the trademark application does not even try to apply for a mark for literature purposes. There's also a good chance that the work trademark granted will be limited to something like "Disney's Princess Aurora." I actually don't every everyone in the USPTO is a barbarian. :)

#33 leonid17

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Posted 27 June 2010 - 01:26 AM

I think the family of Tchaikovsky should trademark the name "Princess Aurora" and the their music in Russia. The French Should Trademark the Name "Sleeping Beauty" and "Beauty and the Beast" as a French Cultural institution.


I'm sure Disney had to license the music from the Tchaikovsky estate when the film was made, although ironically, the Tchaikovsky-derived music in the film's score is probably now protected under copyright as a derivative work. Who knows what the contract with the Tchaikovsky estate states, though.

But the real issue from the Disney perspective is that they use the princess characters as "marks" of the Disney corporation. It's probably saying something twisted about our society, but the princess characters (Snow White, Cinderella, Jasmine, the Little Mermaid, etc.) are some of the most popular characters at Disney amusement parks, and are used to extort money from parents of little girls in just about every way possible. There is no way that Disney is not going to protect that very lucrative franchise at all costs.

If the works were in public domain, there would probably an interesting copyright question about use of characters if the Tchaikovsky estate were to try to protect "Princess Aurora" in some way. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's estate was able to block Spielberg and Christopher Columbus from releasing "Young Sherlock Holmes" during the 1980's because they did not license the Sherlock Holmes character from the Conan Doyle estate when they made the film, but I that that was a copyright case and the Conan Doyle stories had not fallen into public domain at the time.

Realistically, though, I doubt Disney will be able to enforce their mark against pre-existing ballets and the trademark application does not even try to apply for a mark for literature purposes. There's also a good chance that the work trademark granted will be limited to something like "Disney's Princess Aurora." I actually don't every everyone in the USPTO is a barbarian. :)


Thank you for your lucid explanation of the copyright situation.

The actual copyright of Tchaikovsky's music of course ended in 1963, seventy years after his death.

#34 sidwich

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Posted 27 June 2010 - 10:06 AM

The actual copyright of Tchaikovsky's music of course ended in 1963, seventy years after his death.


Actually, death + 70 only applies to post-1978 works. Pre-1978 copyright terms depend on a myriad of factors, none of which I was very good at keeping track of (publication dates, death of author, renewals, etc.). Mostly, it's publication+ 28 + 28 (if renewed), I think. United Airlines was able to start using "Rhapsody in Blue" as their theme during the 1980s because it fell into public domain only 50ish years after George Gershwin's untimely death in the 1930s. As much as Ira Gershwin and the Gershwin estate fought it, they were unable to do anything about it.

I didn't realize that Tchaikovsky passed away pre-1900. The ballet music definitely would have been in public domain by the time Disney made the "Sleeping Beauty" film.


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