A recent decision by United States District Court Judge Florence-Marie Cooper confirms that Slesinger’s license of Pooh rights to Disney is “unambiguous” and entitles Slesinger to “royalties for all uses.” Accordingly, on Friday, November 6, Stephen Slesinger, Inc. filed a notice of appeal to obtain unpaid past royalties from Disney as well as redress for Disney’s past improper business practices.
Stephen Slesinger, Inc. pioneered “evergreen” equity branding for the character licensing industry in general and Winnie the Pooh in particular. Long before Disney, Stephen Slesinger created both “Classic” and “Red Shirt” Pooh brands, and before Slesinger, Pooh had never seen the outside of a black and white book.
Eric M. George of Browne Woods George, attorney for Slesinger, said, “The ruling confirms that Stephen Slesinger, Inc. is entitled to royalties every time Disney or its sublicensees use Winnie the Pooh. As Disney surely knows, its ability to enjoy the benefits of Slesinger’s television, trademark, future media and brand equity rights to Pooh is only as certain as the accuracy of Disney’s royalty statements to Slesinger.”
Pursuant to the terms of the license agreement between Disney and Slesinger, Disney and its global sublicensees are required to separately report the gross revenues they generate from all uses of Pooh characters and may not mix up Pooh character revenues with non-Pooh characters such as Mickey Mouse.
For example, when a Winnie the Pooh item or service sells for $10, anywhere in the world, Disney and its sublicensees are obligated to report that $10 sale within six months without subtracting any costs or applying any other financial treatment that reduces, defers, reclassifies, substitutes or excludes any portion the actual gross receipts.
Slesinger’s share of the gross receipts is about 1.5% to 2.5% while Disney and its sublicensees retain 97.5% to 98.5%. This revenue split is uncommonly favorable to Disney and its sublicensees.
According to Disney, Winnie the Pooh is one of the top animated characters in the world and in every division of the Walt Disney Company. Pooh accounts for about 25% of Disney’s global retail sales in consumer products alone.
We hope that sensible Disney business and creative marketing people such as Bob Iger, Jay Rasulo, Andy Mooney and other prominent Disney executives will take this court ruling very seriously and will assure us of accuracy and transparency in reporting all of the Pooh uses, from now on. We look forward to meeting with Disney to resolve all issues between our companies, but we are not certain our intention is getting past the formidable Disney legal barricade. Unfortunately, as long as opposing members of the bar are running interference, both Slesinger and Disney will continue to be challenged to waste valuable time and resources that could be used instead to create more happiness, laughs and smiles for children.
Patricia Slesinger, President of Stephen Slesinger, Inc.
For 80 years, Slesinger’s share of Pooh revenues has helped to develop and sponsor children’s enrichment, nutrition and advocacy programs and outdoor character-building events for American boys and girls, in the tradition of ethical culture enlightened by the wonder of childhood.
In 1930, Slesinger gave Pooh his iconic red shirt and turned him into an American personality and an industry with children’s shows, songs, games, toys and a steady stream of imaginative Pooh items to buy, hear, see, play, wear, touch, hug and love — outside of Milne’s books. In the 1950s and 1960s, Stephen’s widow, Shirley Slesinger Lasswell, paved the roads of Pooh’s legendary retail success, with Pooh Corners in distinguished department stores across the country tied to memorable Pooh products and family memory making events. After reaching an agreement with Walt Disney to develop Pooh for television in the 1960s, she helped keep Disney on track to bring Pooh’s magic to children all over the world.