A federal appeals court on Thursday denied an attempt by the granddaughter of “Winnie-the-Pooh” author A.A. Milne to reclaim merchandising rights for the honey-loving bear from a Beverly Hills family.
The ruling, in effect, requires Walt Disney Co. to continue paying its longtime legal adversary, Pati Slesinger, royalties from Pooh products.
The Slesinger family sued Disney in 1991, claiming that the Burbank entertainment giant had cheated family members out of millions of dollars since they granted Disney their Pooh rights in 1961.
That lawsuit was dismissed last year. Thursday’s ruling, by a panel of three judges of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, came in a separate case.
In 2002, Milne’s granddaughter, Clare Milne, attempted to reclaim Pooh merchandising rights under U.S. copyright law. The same day, Clare Milne entered into a new agreement with Disney, assigning those rights to the company.
In 2003, a federal court judge blocked Clare Milne’s attempts to wrest licensing rights from the Slesingers. Thursday’s ruling upheld the lower court’s finding.
The ruling also noted that although Disney was not a party to the appeal, Disney had agreed to pay for Clare Milne’s litigation.
Disney declined to comment Thursday.
“We are very, very gratified by the court’s decision,” Pati Slesinger said in a statement. “Disney has been trying desperately to get rid of the Slesingers and get out from under their contract.”
Slesinger receives royalties because her late father, literary agent Stephen Slesinger, had obtained the merchandising rights for Pooh from Milne in 1930. Over the years, her family has received more than $65 million in royalties.