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Disney Wins U.S. Appeals Court Ruling Over Pooh Trademark

Dec. 21 (Bloomberg) -- Walt Disney Co., the world’s largest entertainment company, won an appeals court ruling that protects its trademark rights to the Winnie-the-Pooh characters.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office was correct to throw out challenges to the trademark ownership filed by Stephen Slesinger Inc., which has waged a decades-long battle with Disney over ownership of the Pooh characters, an appeals court in Washington said today. Slesinger had already litigated the issue and lost in district court, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit said in an opinion posted on its website.

A.A. Milne, who wrote the Pooh books, transferred merchandising rights to Stephen Slesinger in 1930, and his widow licensed the rights to Disney in 1961. The Slesinger company and Disney have been fighting in court over royalties since at least 1991.

In 2009, a federal court ruled that Slesinger had transferred all of its rights in the Pooh works to Burbank, California-based Disney. The Federal Circuit today said that, based on that 2009 ruling, the trademark office was right to bar Slesinger from seeking to cancel the Disney trademarks.

Disney fell $1.08, or 2.1 percent, to $49.85 at 12:28 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. The shares have risen almost 33 percent so far this year.

The case is Stephen Slesinger Inc. v. Disney Enterprises Inc., 2011-1593, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (Washington).

To contact the reporter on this story: Susan Decker in Washington at sdecker1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Bernard Kohn at bkohn2@bloomberg.net

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