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Intellectual Property Insights from Fishman Stewart
Mini Article – Volume 23, Issue 23

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Countdown to Public Domain Day

By Kristyn Webb

This year is a big one for the public domain as it (finally) welcomes Disney’s prized IP asset: Mickey Mouse! 

Well, actually, it is Mickey’s previous iteration as “Steamboat Willie.” The subsequent versions of Mickey Mouse will remain under copyright protection until their respective terms expire

For background, Public Domain Day is celebrated on January 1st and commemorates the expiration of copyright protection for certain creative works. US copyright law provides the copyright owner with certain exclusive rights for a limited time, after which the works fall into the public domain. Once a work enters the public domain, anyone is free to copy, publish, distribute, adapt, and otherwise use the work without infringing the rights of the former copyright owner.

In the past, Disney has successfully lobbied Congress to extend the term of copyright protection to prevent Mickey Mouse from entering the public domain. However, the current Congress does not seem similarly inclined, and Disney has not publicly made any similar efforts this time. 

Notably, there is no “international copyright” and while most countries are parties to various international treaties that set certain minimum standards of protection, copyright law can vary between countries. For example, not all countries have the same duration of copyright protection. Mexico extends copyright protection for the life of the author plus 100 years. India provides copyright protection for the life of the author plus 60 years. In China, protection is for the life of the author plus 50 years. So, works that enter the public domain in one country, might still be under copyright protection in other countries.

Also, different forms of intellectual property rights may overlap, particularly for Mickey Mouse. Disney has various trademark registrations, which if properly maintained, may endure in perpetuity

So, we will wait and see if Disney has imagined a strategy to keep control of Steamboat Willie, or whether we can expect to see him featured in a horror movie as was the case when Winnie-the-Pooh entered the public domain.
Kristyn Webb is the Group Leader of Fishman Stewart’s Copyright Practice Group, and is currently earning a Master’s Degree in Copyright Law at King’s College London.


Published December 15th, 2023


MVous Scar Cream Sparkles at the US Trademark Office!

By Kristyn Webb

MVous (pronounced “em-vee-us”—a play on words, sounding like “envious”) is a Michigan-based small business that makes and sells scar cream under the brand with the same name. MVous scar cream has a special ingredient: glitter! MVous founder, Madelyn Vyletel, created the MVous brand and products to help people feel more comfortable with scars on their bodies. After nearly losing her third child and her own life due to medical complications during pregnancy, she was left with a C-section scar on her abdomen. Rather than hide the scar, she decided to showcase it as a testament to the resilience of the human body and spirit. Fishman Stewart recently helped MVous obtain a federal trademark registration, which is helpful to small businesses in protecting their brands and combating counterfeits. Fishman Stewart is proud to represent small businesses like MVous and help them protect their valuable intellectual property. MVous scar cream is available in a variety of colors and comes in small tubes that happen to make great stocking stuffers. MVous is currently taking holiday orders and ships internationally.

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