by Mark Malek
A U.S. District Judge dismissed the copyright suit brought by the heirs of the licensee for the Winnie the Pooh character, Stephen Slessinger. This case has special meaning to us in Florida for a number of reasons. Of course, the mouse house is a huge source of revenue for us, and Slessinger’s widow, who originally brought the copyright suit against Disney, lived in Tampa for years. Slessinger originally acquired the rights to our beloved Pooh Bear in 1930 from author, A. A. Milne. Slessinger’s widow, who lived in Tampa for a number of years, licensed the rights to Pooh to Disney in 1961.
Stephen Slessinger, Inc. (SSI) originally sued Disney alleging that it breached the original licensing deal by attempting to avoid paying the family more than $700 Million in royalties. SSI alleged that Disney comingled revenues generated by Pooh with Disney’s general revenues to avoid paying the royalties. That suit was dismissed in 2004 when the court ruled that the evidence relied on by SSI was improperly obtained through misconduct by a private investigator. To be exact, the dismissal of the suit was one of the sanctions issued by the court.