SSI Seeks Cancellation of Disneys Pooh Trademarks
Stephen Slesinger Inc.’s (SSI) long-running battle against The Walt Disney Company over Winnie the Pooh rights is back in the news with the company petitioning the U.S. Patent Office to cancel several of Disney’s trademark registrations from A.A. Milne’s classic brand.
SSI is petitioning for the cancellation of about 25 Pooh-related names registered by Disney since 1996, according to wire reports, claiming that Disney "was not the owner of the registered marks at the time that these filings were made.”
Disney has moved to block the petition, according to an SEC filing, claiming it duplicates SSI’s request from an ongoing lawsuit between the two companies. Disney spokesman Jonathan Friedland told the AP: "This is by no means anything more than the 'same old, same old,'" he said.
The legal battle goes back to 1991, when SSI, named after the literary agent who bought the merchandising and other rights to Winnie the Pooh from Milne in the 1930s, filed suit against Disney. SSI maintained it was owed millions in unpaid royalties on Pooh content and products, after signing a licensing agreement with Disney in 1983. SSI was looking to cancel that agreement, citing breach of contract. The case was dismissed in 2004 but there is an appeal pending.
Meanwhile, in 2002, Clare Milne teamed with Disney to file suit against SSI seeking the termination of her grandfather A.A. Milne’s grant of Pooh rights to SSI. Disney lost that case and then had to face a SSI countersuit seeking some $2 billion in damages. The two companies are expected to be in court again this spring.