A subpoena was issued earlier this week by the United States District Court in California against Stan Lee in the lawsuit by Stan Lee Media, Inc. (SLMI) against The Walt Disney Company (USDC Colorado, case 12-cv-02663). The multi-billion dollar lawsuit claims that it is SLMI, not Disney/Marvel, that owns the rights to characters that Lee owned, but then transferred to Marvel in the late ’90s. It was prior to this that Lee founded SLMI (which would later fail), the shareholders of which are claiming Lee signed the rights over to them and therefore never had the rights to transfer to Marvel, which would then go own to be owned by Disney, including iconic properties such as Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, Iron Man, X-Men, Thor and the Incredible Hulk, amongst others.
According to the subpoena, Lee is ordered to offer a deposition in the case on February 19. In addition, Lee is being asked to produce documents including all communication between himself and Disney, Marvel or Stan Lee Media pertaining to the issue as well as communication between SLMI and Disney or Marvel along with financial and corporate information for SLMI, all dating back to 1998.
Paperwork was filed earlier today with the comptroller’s office in Orange County, Florida earlier today, which announces that a lawsuit against Walt Disney World by Leanne Deacon, on behalf of her daughter, was voluntarily dismissed with prejudice. This likely indicates that an out-of-court settlement between the parties has been reached.
The lawsuit, which was filed in early 2009, alleges that Deacon’s then-teenage daughter suffered permanent brain damage after collapsing as a result of riding Disney’s Tower of Terror attraction in 2005. Deacon claimed Disney Parks and Resorts was negligent in providing ample warnings about the potential dangers of the attraction and was reportedly seeking in excess of $15 million, an amount Deacon claimed would be necessary to support her daughter for the remainder of her life.
If the case were in fact settled out of court — which is the likely outcome given that the case was voluntarily dismissed — terms generally prohibit either party from disclosing the final results.
Safety, courtesy, show and efficiency; these are the four guiding principles (or keys) that Disney Parks and Resorts ingrains into its ‘cast members’ that not only highlight how to conduct themselves in their ‘roles,’ at the parks, but stress their order of importance. Therefore, safety is the primary concern of the company and its employees.
But what if a cast member were to run ‘afoul’ of the organization and its management and cite concerns regarding safety? And especially where management is effectively swapping the importance of safety for the sake of efficiency? Worse yet, what if that cast member claims retaliation for their whistle-blowing and says they were wrongfully terminated as a result?
This is the reported story of Victoria Ann Smith, who last week filed a lawsuit against Disney Parks and Resorts and Local Union 362 President Eric Clinton, stating that despite a near-exemplary record, she was fired not because of a terminable offense as claimed by management, but because she consistently called out the manager on safety concerns.
Smith’s role, as it pertains to the suit, was that of the ‘Gangster’ at The Great Movie Ride at Disney’s Hollywood Studios theme park at the Walt Disney World Resort. According to the suit, Disney claims her termination came as a result of leaving her microphone on in the cast member break room and using an expletive (namely ‘Oh s—-!’) which would theoretically be heard by guests inside the attraction. While Smith disputes the event even took place, she also argues that the offense is only terminable if spoken in front of guests (as per the union contract) and that by being separated from the guests by being inside the break room, the claim does not stand.
To her defense, Smith argues in her two and a half years as a cast member, she received no less than 16 ‘great service fanatic cards’ and only small number of points for tardiness as well as a case where her provided ‘extra service to a guest’ was ‘misconstrued as her leaving her station.’ Smith asserts that retaliation was the motivation behind the termination by her manager (named as ‘Steve S.’) who had a personal vendetta against her for continuously noting safety infractions (‘such as a broken door threatening Cast Member safety, a broken fan failing to clear smoke threatening guest and Cast member safety, and her refusal to abide by the manager’s violation of the red light/green light vehicle system to speed up the ride (designed for guide safety).’)
Bolstering her claim, Smith notes that while the manager in question immediately obtained (and reportedly influenced) accounts from other cast members, he did not speak to her directly about it for a week following, despite her working every day since. Smith even includes the statements from three other cast members regarding the alleged incident in her complaint and disputes each one accordingly.
Smith is seeking $250,000 for emotional distress and for lost future wages.
The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) Local 631 and the Service Trades Council Union filed a complaint in Florida Middle District Court against Walt Disney World yesterday over labor hiring practices which they claim are in violation of the then-governing agreement and subsequent mediation rulings.
At the heart of the complaint is the employment of ‘Temporary Employee Referral Program’ (TERP) employees at the ESPN Wide World of Sports in which the IATSE claims Walt Disney World deliberately went outside the agreement to hire on their own from sources unknown to the union. According to the mediation awards, Walt Disney World must use a list of qualified TERPs supplied to them by the IATSE. The IATSE asserts that not only did Walt Disney World not adhere to the previous rulings, but to date have neither asked IATSE for such a list nor have been willing to provide a list of their sources and number of TERPs hired and the required qualifications for said hirings, which is in direct violation of additional rulings by the mediator.
The lawsuit seeks to have the mediation rulings enforced by the court.
Princess Merida may be a force to reckon with when it comes to certain projectiles, but she won’t be proficient when it comes to baseballs or tomahawks if the Atlanta Braves have anything to say about it. While the recent news of Paramount Resources’ Pixar Petrolium is making a big splash, another significant war has been raging quietly on the trademark front — for months no less.
It all started back in March of last year when we reported on trademark applications which appeared to have been confirming a title change for what was then known as The Bear and the Bow, but is now known to be Brave.
Fast forward to this past summer when — after filing a number of extensions — the Atlanta National League Baseball Club, owners of the Atlanta Braves, formally filed an objection to many of the trademark applications. Although trademarks are specific to their singular and plural forms and the Braves do not possess any trademarks for the word BRAVE (only BRAVES), the organization believes that damages will occur as a result of Disney’s trademarks being approved as they have used the singular form before on merchandise and insist it is common for fans, media, et al to use the singular form when referring to a single player, whereas the pluralized form refers to the entire team.
Private negotiations between The Walt Disney Company and the Atlanta National League Ball Club are currently taking place in regards to several of the objected filings with the ball club intending to file an objection against yet another of the registrations. In other words, don’t expect to see Disney/Pixar ‘Brave’ day at Turner Field any time soon (but don’t rule it out either).
Companies must actively police and enforce their trademarks and take all reasonable action to protect them otherwise the trademark may be considered abandoned and thrown into the public domain. Popular examples of this occurring include aspirin and zippers.
ADDED 12/18/11 – A simple, but effective Google image search (Atlanta “Brave” -”Braves”) failed to turn up any BRAVE (singular) merchandise save for one out-of-print book titled If I Were an Atlanta Brave, part of a ‘Picture Me’ series from Playhouse Publishing which, according to Amazon.com, featured many such titles for various professional sports teams, all of which appear in their singular form in the title.
We finally have an update on a lawsuit filed by Walker Digital against The Walt Disney Company which claimed that the PhotoPass service available within the theme parks actively infringed upon its patent and requested an injunction against the service be ordered.
Apparently the team of Disney lawyers felt it was in their best interest to not go the common route of seeking methods for simply having the case thrown out, but have instead opted to help Walker Digital’s cause by telling them exactly who to sue. As a result, an amended complaint was filed yesterday to name Disney Photo Imaging, LLC as the
plaintiff defendant as advised by both DPI and The Walt Disney Company.
As it turns out, the move may simply be a stall tactic since Walker Digital has agreed to allow DPI another 30 days (until September 19, 2011) to answer the case, despite there obviously being awareness on the part of DPI and The Walt Disney Company. It could be a case of the prey toying with the predator, or Disney may in fact see some legitimacy in Walker Digital’s original complaint.
Walker Digital, who stepped into the legal spotlight earlier this year when it went to sue over 100 technology companies for patent infringements, is at it again. This time, they have their sights set on The Walt Disney Company, specifically Disney Photo Imaging, the business unit behind the Disney PhotoPass service at the Walt Disney World and Disneyland Resorts.
At the heart of the complaint is Walker Digital’s patent titled ‘Method and Apparatus for
Automatically Capturing and Managing Images’ which, in all fairness, is a rather creative device in which a camera (or user of a camera) sets parameters to determine if a photo is worth keeping and, if so, either compresses or forwards the image to another device to recover lost space. The keyword throughout the patent is automatic and the image analyzer uses a point system to determine if a photo is worth keeping or if it should be deleted, so that when left alone in the wild, it never suffers from storage concerns.
Specifically what Walker Digital claims, however, is that Disney PhotoPass is violating claim 1 of the patent in which a camera (or user) sees if a photo meets desired qualifications and then sends it off somewhere else for storage, or as the complaint states: ‘By way of example and without limitation, Defendant’s camera systems that are part of the Disney PhotoPass service allow Disney’s photographers to pre-program the system to transmit later acquired images when certain conditions are satisfied.’
This can very loosely be applied to how the PhotoPass system currently works (to my understanding, anyway). Firstly, the photographer really has no QA concerns as far as I’m aware. If they did, over-/under-exposed and out-of-focus and other problematic photos would simply not exist in guests’ accounts. The fact is, PhotoPass does have a quality assurance department who reviews every photo after the image has been transmitted wirelessly. Although they do not reject photos based on quality of the photos, they do reject photos that violate the terms of service and that could apply to what Walker Digital claims but for the fact that, again, it happens after the photo is transmitted to a secondary device. In essence, while Walker Digital aims to resolve issues with limited local storage being consumed, Disney PhotoPass transmits photos wirelessly for convenience to both the photographer and the guests. Therefore, the spirit of the patent does not match the spirit of the PhotoPass service.
In addition to compensatory damages and lawyers’ fees and the like, Walker Digital is seeking a permanent injunction against the Disney PhotoPass service (even eliminating the wireless aspect may not help the cause) and a trial by jury.
Earlier today, The Walt Disney Company was delivered a summons notifying them of the lawsuit and that they have 21 days to respond to the complaint which we include here for those who are interested in reading it. Be prepared, however, to read how Walker Digital created Priceline.com ad nauseum.
Even if I were to understand half of this, I don’t think I understand any of this, thus it’s right up my alley. Some underwriters at Lloyds of London recently filed a claim against Thomas Wright of Loganville, Georgia, owner of Paintball Sports Promotions and Disney Parks and Resorts, specifically Walt Disney World, in what appears to be the next step in an already complicated legal mess.
The lawsuit’s genesis appears to go back to 2006, when Paintball Sports Promotions held a paintball event at then-Disney’s Wide World of Sports. Owen Peterson of Kentstore, Virginia attended the event and sustained injuries which led to ‘bodily injury, including traumatic brain injury, and resulting pain and suffering, impairment, disability, inconvenience, disfigurement, mental anguish, loss of capacity for the enjoyment of life’ and various medical costs as a result of an an inflated display for a third party vendor.
Peterson went forward and sued Walt Disney World, Wright and Crossfire Inc. for damages in excess of $15,000 to which Disney responded by saying it was not responsible as the contract with Wright to hold the 2006 PSP World Cup indeminfied them of any damages arising from the event.
Apparently Peterson may not have had much luck with the other companies as it appears he went ahead and attempted to file a claim with Lloyds of London, the insurers for the event. Llyods response, however, was that the damages sustained by Peterson took place outside of an actual paintball event so they were automatically not accountable. But with that can of worms opened, Lloyds has now turned to its own lawsuit on the grounds of breach of contract, noting that 2009 was the first they had learned of the incident — which didn’t happen in the arena, mind you — and that Wright and his company and Walt Disney World violated terms of the agreement which required prompt notification of any incidents and, as such, are seeking in excess of $75,000 in damages to recoup any losses investigating the case.
Possibly exchanging fradulent Disney Pins for cigarettes, the Associated Press is reporting that Robert Smyrak, 52, of Anaheim, California and Larry Allred , 57, of Walnut, California were charged yesterday in Orange County for importing counterfeit goods in the form of Disney pins.
According to prosecutors, the two intended to sell approximately $2 Million dollars worth of fake Disney pins that they had commissioned to be made in China, then selling the fraudulent goods as genuine pins on eBay. U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers learned of the scheme back in February when they intercepted a package addressed to Smyrak containing more than 150 pounds of pins.
Although the most common form of questionable trading pins available at deep discounts online are generally legitimately authorized pins from other countries, such as Sedesma pin from Spain, a category of counterfeit pins called overruns occurs when factories authorized to produce a run of legitimate pins intentionally creates more than requested, creating a lot of unauthorized pins. Apparently in this case, the pins were being re-created from originals, presumably purchased at the Disneyland resort by the alleged counterfeiters.
Kiddieland Toys Limited has issued a voluntary recall in conjunction with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission the Disney Princess Plastic Racing Trike. The toy can pose a laceration hazard if the child falls on the handlebar decoration. Three reports of facial lacerations have been reported.
The item was manufactured in China and sold at Target, JCPenney, Meijer and H.E.B. stores nationwide and on the Web at www.target.com from January 2009 through April 2011 for about $50. Consumers are advised to immediately take the toy away from children and contact the manufacturer for a replacement handlebar with an enclosed rotating display. For additional information, contact Kiddieland at (800) 430-5307 anytime, or visit the firm’s website at www.kiddieland.com.hk or view the full product recall notice here.