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Disney Sues More Than 200 Retailers for Use of Characters

June 6, 1991

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Walt Disney Co. has sued more than 200 retailers and distributors, claiming that counterfeit goods bearing the image of Mickey, Minnie and their cartoon pals cost the company money and good will.

Disney moved to clamp down on bootlegged merchandise with lawsuits filed Wednesday against 123 retailers and distributors in California and 99 more in Oregon.

The lawsuits claim copyright infringement and unfair competition in violation of federal copyright statutes.

The counterfeits include watches, pins, T-shirts and other items that bear the images of Disney characters.

″The damages are incalculable,″ John J. Tormey III, a Disney lawyer in New York, said Thursday. He said unlicensed products with Disney characters cost Disney money and can hurt its reputation and good will if the products are inferior.

Disney characters involved include Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Donald and Daisy Duck, Goofy, Pinocchio, Scrooge McDuck and film characters from ″Dick Tracy,″ ″The Little Mermaid″ and ″Who Framed Roger Rabbit.″

The California lawsuit cites copyright infringement involving watches, charms, pins, stuffed animals, cakes, mugs, dolls, pinatas, costumes, statues, T-shirts, sweatshirts, sweatsuits and other clothing, according to Disney. In Oregon, the items in question are T-shirts, caps, pins and clocks.

Both lawsuits seek to stop the infringement and collect damages.

The entertainment giant’s consumer products division reported revenue of $574 million in 1990, up 40 percent from the previous year. Operating income surged 19 percent to $223 million last year from 1989. Most of the revenue is delivered by Mickey Mouse items.

By comparison, Disney’s film entertainment unit, including movies and television shows, earned $313 million last year on revenue of $2.25 billion.

Tormey said lawsuits are a last resort in the company’s battle against piracy, but serve as an important deterrent.

″It is not difficult for a business person selling toys or apparel to distinguish between the legitimate and illegitimate,″ he said. He said all Disney-licensed products carry a copyright mark that is easy to see.

″We try to dry up the demand,″ Tormey said. ″There’s a high degree of organization in the community of infringers.″

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