An appeals court has ruled in favor of The Walt Disney Company in a lawsuit brought against them regarding the appearance of “Toy Story 4’s” Duke Caboom, according to Reuters‘ Blake Brittain.
In 2020, K&K Promotions sued Disney, claiming that the character too closely resembled famed stunt performer Evel Knievel. (K&K Promotions owns the copyright and trademarks for the late Knievel, who died in 2007.) Last year, a Nevada court dismissed the lawsuit, ruling that Disney and Pixar were protected by the First Amendment, as the Canadian stuntman toy voiced by Keanu Reeves was considered a “transformative” work that was “artistically relevant” to the 2019 film, while they made no attempts to lead audiences to believe that it had Knievel’s endorsement.
On Monday, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the decision, saying that the studios were immune to trademark claims by K&K, as Caboom was “clearly” relevant to the film, and that “unlike Evel Knievel, Duke Caboom is a fictional character in an animated film about toys that come to life.” The court also noted that Caboom was given a different backstory, name, and appearance, making it hard to claim that it was Knievel.
In a jointly written opinion, the panel of three judges stated, “even if the character may be generically reminiscent of Knievel to some extent, the district court properly concluded that it is not a literal depiction, and instead shares general features basic to stuntmen.” As of the writing of this article, it’s unclear as to whether K&K will make any further steps to assert their claim.