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22.4.05

Ouch, That Hurts

We've been getting a lot of traffic lately from people looking for information about the latest legal decision concerning Pierrot the Clown Fish. As I wrote here over a year ago [Disney (Allegedly) Making Money off Other People's Ideas?, December 21, 2003], a French comic book author named Franck Le Calvez brought a lawsuit against Disney and Pixar, alleging that Disney plagiarized the characters and storyline for their hit movie Finding Nemo from his comic book about a clown fish named Pierrot. A few months after that (A Clown Fish Is a Clown Fish Is a Clown Fish, March 14, 2004), a French judge ruled that there was no suspicious similarity between Nemo and Pierrot.

Well, the story doesn't end there. It was widely reported this week that not only was Le Calvez not going to receive a settlement, but also that Disney won a fraud settlement against their accuser. The best version of the story (Frenchman loses Nemo copy claim, April 20) was from BBC News:

A French court ruled on Wednesday that Nemo had existed before Pierrot and that Le Calvez even knew of the Disney character when he created his. He was ordered to pay 61,000 euros ($80,000, £42,000) damages and costs. Le Calvez had already lost one case last March. A court ruled then that the two fish were similar - both have big smiles and sport three stripes down the side - but found that their similarities were not enough to confuse people.
What I don't understand is how, if the two characters are not really similar, Disney can win such a decision. You can see pictures of them side by side here, but I guess a cartoon character that is a clown fish is pretty much going to look like a clown fish. Fortunately, the court was there to protect poor, defenseless Disney against Franck Le Calvez.

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