Disney Wins With Dismissal of “Santa Paws” Lawsuit

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Disney Wins With Dismissal of "Santa Paws" Lawsuit

A copyright lawsuit that alleges Disney stole the idea and story behind the Santa Paws movies has been dismissed by a Federal Judge. Disney movies, Santa Buddies: The Legend of Santa Paws and The Search for Santa Paws were direct to DVD movies that had a storyline about a cute pup who helps Santa Claus save Christmas.

Ray Harter, Richard Kearney and Ed Corno claimed they conceived of their Santa Paws in 1991 and then sued in December in U.S. District Court in Missouri.

The court acknowledged that the short story and the Disney movies do have similar features: such as they both feature a threat to Christmas and a talking dog named Paws, Santa Paws or Puppy Paws; and they all have magical icicles; etc. There is also some similar dialogue in both the movies and the script.

However, “apart from these abstract similarities, the remaining elements of the plaintiffs’ short story and defendants’ movies are substantially dissimilar,” the court notes. “Furthermore, most of the aforementioned similarities between plaintiffs’ short story and defendants’ works are not protected by copyright law.”

In the Plaintiffs storyline, Santa Claus and the dog, are together on a rescue mission to reignite Christmas spirit and have to fight back against an evil ice witch and her magic icicle. In Disney’s film, Christmas is threatened by the thawing of a magical icicle and Santa Paws joined the “Air Bud” dogs in the rescue.

The Plaintiffs claim copyright infringement against Disney and asserted claims of breach of fudiciary duty and negligence against WME, whose former agents John Ferriter and Barry Jeffery who allegedly showed the project around to different studios though WME was later dismissed from the case.

But in a ruling issued Thursday, U.S. district court judge Catherine Perry granted summary judgment in favor of the studio, ruling that the short story Santa Paws is not substantially similar to Disney’s Santa Paws.

“It appears the Court’s opinion was well thought out, consistent with legal precedent and crafted eloquently,” says Albert Watkins, a lawyer for the plaintiffs. “That being said, my clients disagree with the subjective findings giving rise to a resounding victory for Disney. Tinker Bell should be very proud. Alternative appellate action is being evaluated.”

The court also dismissed a civil conspiracy claim.

Disney did not respond to a request for comment.

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Disney Wins With Dismissal of "Santa Paws" Lawsuit


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