Walt Disney Co. has won an appeals court ruling that protects the Burbank entertainment giant's trademarks to the valuable Winnie the Pooh characters.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington upheld a decision by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office that blocked Stephen Slesinger Inc.'s challenges to Disney's control of the trademark for the Hundred Acre Wood clan.
The ruling appears to end a 21-year legal odyssey against Disney by Stephen Slesinger's family. Slesinger was a New York literary agent and pioneer in the marketing of cartoon characters. He was the first to see great value in promoting the befuddled bear, depressed donkey and other characters created in the 1920s by British author A.A. Milne.
Milne transferred the Pooh merchandising rights to Slesinger in 1930, and Slesinger's widow assigned them to Disney in 1961.
Over the next four decades, Disney created a multibillion-dollar merchandising empire around Winnie the Pooh, whose popularity eclipsed that of Mickey Mouse, Disney's longtime mascot. Pooh became Disney's most profitable character.