Walt Disney Co., which closely guards rights to its own copyrighted names and cartoon characters, has been sued for $25 million for unauthorized use of the Brown Derby name at its new theme park.
The lawsuit was filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Orlando on behalf of Brown Derby Inc., an Ohio-based restaurant chain that operates 36 outlets in five states including Florida.
However, the Brown Derby restaurant on the premises of the new $400-million Disney-MGM Studios theme park, which opens here today, is not one of them.
The lawsuit contends that Disney's use of the name violates the restaurant chain's federally copyrighted trademark because Disney did not ask permission to use it.
Disney spokesman John Dreyer disagreed, saying that Disney legally obtained rights to the name.
"We obtained the rights to the Hollywood Brown Derby name," said Dreyer. "There is no question in our minds that we own the rights to that. We're talking about the Hollywood Brown Derby that dates, I think, from before the one in Ohio was created."
Brown Derby Inc. is not affiliated with the famous Hollywood restaurant but owns the rights to the name nationally, said David Rosenzweig, a lawyer for Brown Derby Inc.
If the owner of Hollywood's Brown Derby, Walter Scharfe, wanted to open a restaurant in Florida under that name, he "would have to get our permission," Rosenzweig said. "There just really isn't any question that we own the name."