You may or may not have heard that Disney had filed suit against Phase 4 for trademark infringement. Basically, the claim Disney was making was a rather obvious one: owing to the success of Frozen Phase 4 decided to try to bamboozle more unwitting consumers in the market place by creating confusion between their animated film and Disney’s.
They changed the title from The Legend of Sarila to Frozen Land. While by itself that may not have been enough the brazen actions of Phase 4 went further remaking their poster and logo to look like this:
I have greatly enjoyed some Phase 4 titles and this move seemed like one far beneath them just to catch a few Redbox users off-guard. This is not over-zealous brand management. Disney, it was said, could really do nothing about Escape from Tomorrow (A guerrilla-shot horror film shot entirely at Disney World) legally and it was inadvisable to try, so they didn’t.
The argument being Disney cannot and should not control every single image and portrayal of their park. However, the Phase 4 issue is a bit more obvious, could hurt both Disney and anger consumers, furthermore its laziness is beneath even Asylum who while knocking things off intend to do so from the start and don’t make a last-second commitment. It’s even sillier considering how frequently Disney is at the forefront of lobbying for more copyright and trademark protections.
The settlement was as follows:
Immediately cease marketing and distribution of The Legend of Sarila as FROZEN LAND. Any further distribution, marketing, and/or promotion of The Legend of Sarila or related products, irrespective of format, shall be under the name The Legend of Sarila or another name not confusingly similar to or intended to create any association with FROZEN or any other motion picture marketed, promoted, or released by [Disney Enterprises] or its affiliated companies, including Walt Disney Pictures.
Phase 4 Films cannot use the “Frozen Land” logo in marketing its movie and must take “all practicable efforts” to immediately remove all copies (including DVD covers, DVDs and other media) of “Frozen Land” from stores and distribution centers. Phase 4 Films must then certify to the court that it has destroyed all copies of the infringing logo no later than March 3, 2014. The Judgment also requires Phase 4 Films to pay Disney Enterprises $100,000 no later than January 27, 2014.
Disney’s prompt filing of the trademark lawsuit and the parties’ even more prompt resolution to of it demonstrates that Disney is not going to tolerate infringement of its trademarks. To be honest, at $100,000, Phase 4 Films probably got off cheaply, given how brazenly it copied Disney’s Frozen logo.
Now, Disney likely could have tried to go for even more – many likely expected them to – however, they got exactly what they were after and quick. It would’ve been beneath Disney to go “bigger” against an indie just as it was beneath Phase 4 to try and co-opt Disney’s success for their own title. At the end of the day it’s a proper result.