The 13-year legal battle over Winnie the Pooh royalty payments is over. The Associated Press reports that a judge has dismissed the lawsuit filed against the Walt Disney Co. by Pooh rights holder Stephen Slesinger Inc.
The Slesinger case was built largely upon documents that were somehow obtained from Disney. Today’s 28-page ruling by Superior Court Judge Charles W. McCoy Jr. concludes that those confidential documents were acquired unlawfully from Disney offices and trash. It further stipulates that Slesinger Inc. cannot sue again on the claim.
The Slesinger family released a statement that reads, "Of course we are appealing to take our Pooh rights back. This decision unfortunately sends a strong message to corporate America that it is okay for companies like Disney to steal and renege on its contractual promises, and just fine to destroy a million pages of evidence along the way. This is just one round in a very long and complicated relationship and another delay of justice. What is in the garbage documents is that Disney committed fraud and the judge has thrown out the baby with the bathwater. This has not removed Disney’s ongoing obligation to pay royalties to Slesinger family or remedy its unauthorized uses of Pooh."
The blow to the Slesinger family comes just three weeks after the release of Springtime with Roo, Disney’s latest direct-to-video title in the Pooh franchise, one of the Mouse House’s most profitable properties.