As we welcome the New Year 2024, a significant intellectual property (IP) event is unfolding. Disney’s iconic characters, Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse, as they first appeared in the 1928 short film “Steamboat Willie,” are set to enter the public domain on January 1, 2024.

Disney has been proactive in the past, pushing for extended copyright laws to keep the mice under their control. But now, they’re letting go – at least of the original versions of these cherished characters.

A spokesperson from Disney addressed this impending transition in a statement to The Associated Press, saying,

Ever since Mickey Mouse’s first appearance in the 1928 short film ‘Steamboat Willie,’ people have associated the character with Disney’s stories, experiences, and authentic products. That will not change when the copyright in the Steamboat Willie film expires.

This imminent transition highlights an important lesson for entrepreneurs worldwide: the criticality of IP protection. Your business’s IP isn’t just a cornerstone – it’s the lifeblood that fuels innovation, fosters uniqueness, and provides a competitive edge in today’s crowded marketplace.

So, as you pen down your New Year’s resolutions, why not add “strengthen my IP protection” to the list?

Here are some actionable steps every entrepreneur should consider:

While Disney may have let go of the original Mickey and Minnie, they still hold a trademark for Mickey as a symbol of their brand.

This means other companies cannot start using a Mickey head logo, even though they could create Mickey-related media. As long as a trademark is still in use, registered, and renewals file, it never expires.

Disney intends to safeguard against consumer confusion caused by unauthorized uses of Mickey and our other iconic characters.

The copyright law that has kept Mickey out of the public domain until now is sometimes referred to as the Mickey Mouse Protection Act.For works published before 1978, a copyright can be held for 95 years. The law currently allows copyright to be in place for the author’s life plus 70 years.

As we enter 2024, let’s pledge to reinforce our intellectual property rights, just like Disney will continue to protect their more modern versions of Mickey Mouse and other works that remain copyrighted.

After all, the future of your business might depend on it.

You can learn how we can help protect your brand and secure your business’s future.

Happy Sunday,

SecureMark Legal

Please feel free to contact us for more information.

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