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Disney embroiled in two lawsuits over intellectual property theft

Even before Disney released its Golden Globe winning movie “Frozen” in 2013 it was already receiving media attention. But not for the reasons some residents here in California may think. That’s because while Disney was trying to argue its claim of trademark infringement against a Canadian film distributor called Phase 4 Films, another animator was considering filing an intellectual property theft claim against Disney because of infringement against her idea.

At the center of both lawsuits is the issue of copyright infringement and Disney’s movie “Frozen.” The lawsuit filed by Disney accuses Phase 4 of using “Frozen” logos for its own film “Frozen Land.” In a side-by-side comparison it’s not difficult to see the glaring similarities between the two, which is what Disney argued in its December 2013 lawsuit. Disney believes that Phase 4 used the “Frozen” logos as a way of tricking people into thinking that the Phase 4 movie was “Frozen.”

But the second lawsuit is also claiming copyright infringement, this time over the movie’s trailer. According to a March 2014 lawsuit against Disney, the movie’s trailer was actually a copy of a short film called “The Snowman.” In the animator’s lawsuit, she claims that Disney had access to her short film via a job application that she submitted and at several film festivals in which Pixar representatives were present. Because of the similarities in plot between the movie trailer and her film, she is accusing Disney of infringing on her copyright, which was filed in early 2011.

Both lawsuits raise a difficult question: can Disney sue for copyright infringement if their idea is found to have been stolen? Although it’s likely that a judge might deem this a valid case considering the fact that Disney’s qualm with Phase 4 centers around marketing logos, it’s difficult to predict exactly how the cases will go at this time. It’s possible that a judge could consider the idea stolen and therefore dismiss Disney’s infringement claim. Then again, both cases may have valid points. Either way, each case could mean that lengthy litigation is ahead for Disney.

Source: Inside Counsel, “Animator claims Disney’s Frozen infringes upon her short film,” Zach Warren, April 1, 2014

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