22 February 2019 10 min read

Whilst a legal battle about mouse ears may not sound like the most commercially significant issue of the day, the recent showdown between electronic musician deadmau5 and one of the largest media companies in the world, disney, is set to make a pretty big impression.

‘Lawyer up Mickey’

Deadmau5 (pronounced ‘Deadmouse’…don’t ask us why) is an electronic music producer whose identity centres on the ‘Deadmau5’ logo and costume that he wears whilst performing – a mouse shaped head that bears strong resemblance to the silhouette of the iconic mickey mouse logo.

Whilst Deadmau5 has this logo trademarked in over 30 countries already, it would seem that disney aren’t best pleased about it being trademarked in the us, as they opposed it’s application on the ground that the logo is likely to “cause confusion, or to cause mistake, or to deceive.” although a huge corporation like disney is usually a fairly daunting prospect to smaller parties, it would appear that deadmau5 isn’t exactly ‘quiet as a mouse’ on the subject, as he recently took the fight to the keyboard, tweeting “landed home to some interesting news: looks like disney officially just filed in opposition of my trademark… lawyer up Mickey.”

Although there is certainly an element of similarity between the two logos, Deadmau5 himself has said “Disney thinks you might confuse an established electronic musician/performer with a cartoon mouse. That’s how stupid they think you are”, raising the question of whether the public will really confuse the two due to the fact they offer completely different services.

Blame game?

As if he didn’t have enough on his plate, Deadmau5 also tweeted that Disney used his well-known track ‘ghosts n stuff’ without his permission on a video. Whilst this is a more concrete legal argument, as this is a pretty clear-cut situation where an artist is having his intellectual property used without a licence, it may in fact be that the talented legal counsel on hand at disney make sure the issue of mickey mouse’s silhouette is in fact much more pressing.

These mice matter

It may seem that a legal argument about the silhouette of mouse ears is a bit silly, but the outcome of this case could have an important effect on the industry.

From the perspective of Deadmau5, we need to understand that he isn’t angry because he profits from the similarity of his logo and the Mickey Mouse logo – he is aware of the commercial importance of protecting his brand in the us. Deadmau5 sells various branded accessories such as t-shirts and headphones, and so if for any reason he is unable to trademark his logo, this could completely devalue his brand as it paves the way for fake deadmau5 merchandise to enter the market. As the electronic dance music industry is currently pulling in $6.2bn annually, this is of course a slice of action that deadmau5 doesn’t want to miss out on!

Therefore, the outcome of this case will prove interesting for the edm industry – a lot of people want to know ‘why now?’ Deadmau5 has been around for the past 10 years with his mouse logo, yet Disney have chosen now to take legal action, unlike Ferrari who wasted no time in sending Deadmau5 a ‘Cease and Desist’ letter after he customised his car to make it a ‘Purrari’.

If the case goes to court, it will be likely that a consumer survey will be conducted to assess the likelihood of confusion between the two logos – a survey that, whilst with any sense would state no likelihood of confusion – yet we can be sure that the extensive legal team at disney will pack a punch in their legal solutions against Deadmau5.

One of the most important aspects of the law relating to music is what happens to the intellectual property rights involved in the transactions that take place. The two main ways of dealing with intellectual property rights in music are via licences or via assignments. We can provide you with guidance in respect of both, as well as helping you with all of the background legal advice and documentation that you may require to further your career.

Why not contact us today to book your free consultation to discuss your legal requirements in further detail, we’ll be delighted to talk to you.

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Ryan Lisk

Ryan has helped a vast number of businesses protect and control their intellectual property as well as drafting and advising on consumer and commercial contracts.

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