The battle over trademark infringement pertaining to animated characters is now extending to kids birthday parties.
WSJ: In planning birthday parties for their children, parents are facing stumbling blocks that include trademark infringement.
For children’s parties, many companies around the country provide costumed characters popular with kids — characters like Dora the Explorer, Bob the Builder and Hannah Montana. In recent years, corporations that own the rights to some of the more popular characters, companies that include Marvel Entertainment Inc., Scholastic Inc., and HIT Entertainment, have sent cease-and-desist letters, threatened lawsuits and in some cases received settlements from companies that market unauthorised character impersonators.
The threats rattle the costume industry. Some companies hire lawyers to advise them on how to stay out of trouble and remain in business. Others are now commissioning costumes that only slightly resemble characters owned by media companies. They have names like “Big Red Tickle Monster,” instead of Elmo, and “Explorer Girl with Backpack,” rather than Dora.
Below, the tale of the poor kids who had to settle for fake Dora:
Miriam Sorkin, an office manager in Englewood Cliffs, N.J., threw a fourth-birthday party for her daughter in May and arranged for a costumed impersonator of Dora the Explorer. Though the walk-about “Dora” had the expected pageboy haircut and backpack, her expression was blank and her legs appeared out of proportion to the rest of her body. “When Dora came out,” Mrs. Sorkin says, “none of the kids would go to Dora, including my daughter, and a few of the kids started crying.”
Elvira Grau, who owns Space Odyssey USA, where Mrs. Sorkin held her daughter’s party, says the costume companies that service her parties try to make their costumes look sufficiently different from the trademarked characters to avoid lawsuits. When Mrs. Sorkin complained to her that Dora was “hideous,” Mrs. Grau gave her a $250 credit. “But I told her, ‘You can’t have the real Dora. If you want the real Dora, call Nickelodeon.’ “
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