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Henson Associates Sues Disney for Using Muppets

April 17, 1991 GMT

NEW YORK (AP) _ Henson Associates Inc. filed suit today against The Walt Disney Co., charging the entertainment conglomerate with illegally using the Muppet characters created by the company’s founder, the late Jim Henson.

The suit, filed in federal court in Manhattan, alleges Disney used images of Muppets without a license in television commercials, movies, books, brochures, T-shirts and other merchandise and in Disney’s 1990 annual report.

The lawsuit, announced by Henson Associates in a statement, seeks to stop Disney from ″acting in any way that suggests Disney owns or has any rights to the Muppets.″

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Henson Associates also is trying to prevent Disney from its upcoming springtime opening of ″Kermit the Frog Presents: Muppet Vision 3-D,″ a theatrical production slated for Disney World in Orlando, Fla., that the statement said was Henson’s last major work.

Disney spokesman Erwin Okun said the company had no immediate comment. Disney is based in Burbank, Calif.

Henson is seeking compensatory and punitive damages.

Henson and Disney had been in protracted merger talks but those negotiations ended in failure last December.

″Today’s lawsuit is the result of Disney’s continued use of the Muppets despite its failure through negotiations to obtain a license,″ the statement said.

Henson Associates is based in Los Angeles with offices in New York and London and is owned by the estate and children of Jim Henson, who died last year of pneumonia at the age of 53.

Disney makes motion pictures and television productions, owns amusement parks and engages in a variety of related businesses.