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Disney In Copyright Spats With Day Care Center, Restaurant

April 30, 1989

HALLANDALE, Fla. (AP) _ Mickey Mouse is up to his ears in contention, with his copyright owners suing and being sued over infringement and a children’s center here being told to remove cartoon characters from its walls.

People from across the nation have expressed outrage that Walt Disney Productions ordered the day-care center to remove paintings of Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck and Goofy from the outside walls of the school, but the company remains firm in its position.

Support for the day-care center has come from a Phoenix, Ariz., grandmother, a New York doctor, a Mississippi beauty shop owner and the creator of a Saturday morning cartoon television show, an official said.

″I’ve gotten so many telephone calls from people angry at Disney that I bet Walt Disney is turning over in his grave right now,″ said Erica Scotti, executive director of the Very Important Babies Daycare.

Disney officials said the school is violating copyright laws and they want the popular cartoons removed in one month. The company also has ordered the characters removed at two other Hallandale day-care centers, Good Godmother’s Daycare and Temple Messianique.

″The calls have been from people who apparently don’t understand the American copyright,″ said Disney spokesman Chuck Champlin. He expressed concern that the public would think the schools were sponsored by Disney.

Meanwhile in Orlando, Brown Derby Inc., the Ohio-based restaurant chain, filed a federal lawsuit against Walt Disney Co. alleging trademark infringement, the day after Disney filed a similar suit against 75 merchants in the Chicago area.

The suit filed Thursday accuses Disney with unauthorized use of the Brown Derby name at the Disney-MGM Studios Theme Park.

Disney’s signature eatery at the studio’s theme park, the Hollywood Brown Derby, opens at Disney’s new attraction Monday. Disney claims its restaurant pays homage to the famous eatery once located at Hollywood and Vine streets and has nothing to do with the chain.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Orlando, seeks $25 million in damages. In Burbank, Calif., Disney spokesman Tom Deegan said it is Disney policy not to comment on lawsuits.

″It surprises me,″ said Brown Derby Inc. lawyer David Rosenzweig, ″that a company that reveres and recognizes the importance of its trademarks would do this, but I suppose it happens.″

Rosenzweig said the Cleveland company has used the Brown Derby name at its restaurants across the nation for more than 50 years. He said the name has been on the chain’s restaurants in Florida for more than 15 years.

Rosenzweig did acknowledge there has never been a connection between Brown Derby Inc. and the Original Brown Derby restaurant - a Hollywood, Calif., landmark in the 1930s and 1940s.

In an unrelated case, Disney filed its own suit Wednesday charging the 75 Chicago-area merchants were selling merchandise bearing the unauthorized likenesses of Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Goofy and Roger Rabbit.

On March 31, Disney sued the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences on March 31, charging that the academy used Disney’s Snow White character without permission at its annual Academy Awards show. The academy apologized and promised not to use the characters again without Disney’s permission, and the suit was dropped.

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