Deadmau5 Vs. Disney Explained By Lawyers
Stan Alcorn of Marketplace.org recently published an article about deadmau5 and Disney's legal dispute, and he interviewed various people versed in trademark law for the piece. As a result, it's one of the more informative articles published on the ongoing legal battle.
Deadmau5's attempt to register his mousehead trademark is one step above trademark protection. His mousehead already had trademark protection simply by existing as a logo on his merchandise. Jerermy Sheff, a law professor at St. John's helped describe what trademark registration would do for deadmau5: "It's a little bit easier and cheaper to sue others."
However, deadmau5 and his legal team were well aware that filing for trademark registration would spur action by Disney. Dina LaPolt, deadmau5's attorney, said, "We always knew Disney would oppose it because that’s what Disney does."
LaPolt was ready for a battle with Disney, though. She added, "I like to change things and battle people. That’s why I’m a lawyer."
Alcorn brought up one random example of Disney flexing its financial and legal power. Back in 1981, Mickey Colarusso and Mickey Visk owned a bar in Colonie, NY named "Mickey's Mousetrap." Disney forced the bar to change its name without a fight from the owners. Colarusso explained, "We're giving in because we don't have the time or money to battle an organization as big as Disney."
Although the example of Mickey's Mousetrap makes Disney seem like a huge bully, companies must exercise their trademark rights to retain them. As a result, massive corporations are required to kill people's dreams in order to maintain their trademarks. Rebecca Tushnet, a law professor at Georgetown, said, "Trademark owners often feel they need to take symbolic actions."
As we all know, Disney is making the claim that deadmau5's mousehead will cause confusion among consumers. Jack Jacoby, a professor of marketing at NYU, told Alcorn: "Disney’s saying 'Wait, people may think that this comes from us." To help clear up this confusion, Alcorn ran an unscientific test outside of a mall in Queen, New York, where he showed EDM fans a picture of a deadmau5 shirt. According to Alcorn, "Among his fans, everyone knew the symbol immediately, and had no confusion about Disney's involvement."
However, Jacoby, who's involved in 30 to 40 trademark disputes per year, says the United States Patent and Trademark Office won't allow a similar survey to be admitted as evidence in this case. He says, "Most of the action is in the federal courts. And the federal courts, they want you to simulate reality as closely as possible. But the PTO [Patent and Trademark Office] only wants to look at the mark in isolation. So the silhouette, in this case, of the ears." In response to Jacoby's assertion, Alcorn wrote, "This lack of real-world context could hurt Deadmau5's chances."
The PTO hasn't revealed how long it will take for this case to be resolved, but observers told Alcorn that it could take years for a resolution to be reached.
From what deadmau5 and LaPolt have said, it's clear they're in this for the long haul. Disney has the resources and time to drag this case on for years until they receive their desired outcome, but we're not counting deadmau5 out. The outspoken superstar could still have a few tricks up his sleeve.
Cover photo credit: Rukes