Deadmau5, whose real name is Joel Zimmerman, posted a series of tweets about the trademark infringements. "Lawyer up mickey," the 33-year-old Canadian electronic artist tweeted to his nearly 3 million followers in response to Disney's 171-page "trademark opposition proceeding" against deadmau5's application to trademark his logo in the United States.
Disney owns the copyright on the three-circle logo, emphasizing Mickey's popularity being easily recognized and used in films, cartoons, music, and increasing use in fashion since 1928. They claim that the DJ's mouse ears are "nearly identical in appearance, connotation, and overall commercial impression" to Mickey's "iconic" mouse ears.
The mau5head logo has been used around the world for almost a decade and is patented in over 30 countries, but it wasn't until Zimmerman filed for a U.S. trademark in 2013 that Disney began to take legal action.
Both logos feature a silhouetted round head with large mouse ears. The main differences are Mickey's noticeably larger head and smaller and rounder ears. Deadmau5's logo also features his trademark face. However, the similarities, Disney claims, are likely to cause confusion between the logos.
Speculating that Disney targeted him only after the Disney-themed remix album titled Dcontructed was released earlier this year, he said Disney "wanna cash in on EDM, too." The album featured remixed songs from Disney films, animated shorts, television series, and theme park attractions by various electronic musicians, including Daft Punk.
The popular mouse-eared DJ is determined to fight it out in court, firing back with a cease-and-desist after Disney allegedly used one of his songs in a cartoon without permission. "Ok mouse, I never gave Disney a license to use my track, so we emailed you a C&D," he wrote on Twitter, linking to a video on Disney's website titled "Ghosts 'n' Stuff Re-Micks." The 90-second video features short clips from Disney films, adding the caption: "Enjoy a spooky cartoon Re-Micks to the tune of Deadmau5's Ghosts 'n' Stuff."
The two-page letter, dated Sept 4, stated, "Zimmerman is unaware of any license(s) between Disney and EMI, Virgin and/or Ultra granting Disney the right to synchronize the Composition with the Infringing Video or to exploit the Master in any manner or media." The letter goes on to demand that Disney "remove or disable access to the materials indicated above and contact the undersigned regarding this matter with two (2) business days of receipt of this letter" or else further legal action will be carried out.
Deadmau5 added the tweet, "Lets test a theory, it takes em 10 years to oppose a trademark, lets see how long it takes em to take down a video." (So far it's still up.)
A Disney spokesperson responded to deadmau5's complaint, giving the following statement to Rolling Stone.
Disney vigorously protects its trademark rights, and we oppose Mr. Zimmerman's attempt to register a logo that is nearly identical to our trademarks for his commercial exploitation. Our opposition is not about the use of the Deadmau5 costume. The music was appropriately licensed, and there is no merit to his statement.
Artists, like corporations, use logos to distinguish their brand from competitors in the industry. Deadmau5's trademark of his mau5head was not to profit off of Disney, but rather to prevent others from exploiting his property, including items featured in his online store that include HD headphones, backpacks, and t-shirts. The main question in this case is not about the similarities between the logos but rather why Disney—which is widely known to go after smaller entities—took nearly 10 years to take legal action.
Regardless, Disney is a large corporation with more than enough money and lawyers to win this, but they will have to prove that deadmau5's logo is confusing enough to customers who are targeting two totally different audiences.
Do you think Disney is going too far to protect the Mickey ears, or do you think this lawsuit is just? Whose side are you on? Let us know in the comments below.