San Fernando Valley Business Journal

Winnie the Pooh, Star Wars Boost Disney

By Mark Madler Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Walt Disney Co. got its second piece of good news over the holidays when a federal appeals court upheld its trademarks surrounding Winnie-the-Pooh and the other popular characters in British author A. A. Milne’s books.

The U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington affirmed a decision by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office that rejected a claim by the family of New York literary agent Stephen Slesinger of ownership to the trademarks.

The ruling, posted Dec. 21 on the court’s website, could likely end years of litigation surrounding the merchandizing rights of the popular characters, which Milne transferred to Slesinger in 1930s.

Slesinger’s surviving family members, believing they were owed more royalties, resorted to litigation after trying to renegotiate a merchandizing deal struck with Disney in 1983. The latest loss in federal court follows unsuccessful action taken by the family in state court.

Also, Disney announced that it has completed its acquisition of Lucasfilm Ltd. LLC from filmmaker George Lucas in a deal valued at more than $4 billion.

The company made a cash payment of $2.2 billion and issued 37 million in shares of Disney stock on Dec. 21 to pay for the company behind the hugely successful “Star Wars” franchise.

Bringing Lucasfilm into the Disney fold will generate growth for Disney and bring significant long-term value, said Chief Executive Robert Iger.

“’Star Wars’ is one of the greatest family entertainment franchises of all time and this transaction combines that world class content with Disney’s unique and unparalleled creativity across multiple platforms, businesses and markets,” said Iger, in a prepared statement.

Lucasfilm assets include live action film production, consumer products, visual effects firm Industrial Light & Magic and audio post-production firm Skywalker Sound.

Shares of Disney lost 3 cents, or a fraction of a percent, on Wednesday to close at $49.85 on the New York Stock Exchange.