Mickey Mouse Is Set To Hit Public Domain, A Trademark Loophole May Keep Him From Being Exploited

Videos by Rare

Videos by Rare

Mickey Mouse is about to turn 95 since his first appearance. This means that his copyright is about to expire, and he will be part of the public domain. But don’t get too excited just yet. If you go around using Mickey Mouse as you probably know him, you’re very likely to still be sued.

This is because Disney’s trademark is largely based on Mickey Mouse. Additionally, there have been continuous evolutions of Mickey. So, the Mickey that’s going to be up for grabs for anyone to use is actually a rarely known Mickey who dates all the way back to October 1, 1928. He didn’t really look anything like the Mickey Mouse you know now.

OG Mickey Mouse Was Basically A Rat

The National Museum of American History describes the first incarnation of Mickey Mouse as “impish and mischievous” who “looked more rat-like, with a long pointy nose, black eyes, a smallish body with spindly legs and a long tail.”

“Public Domain Mickey Mouse” is definitely not the Mickey Mouse you’re used to seeing.

(You can read more about the origin of Mickey Mouse here.)

And to prevent yourself from getting a nasty cease and desist letter from the big boys in Disney Corporate, remember:

Trademarks work differently than copyrights. While they expire much sooner, they can also be renewed. So although Walt Disney’s original Mickey Mouse copyright is expiring, the Disney trademarks (yes, there are many) will likely continue to be renewed for eternity. Or, you know, until an asteroid smacks our planet or some other end-of-times scenario.

Public Domain Does Not Mean A Free-For-All

Trademarks are important elements of a brand and they can incorporate images and logos with their names and words. So, it’s best to probably stay clear of messing with anything you’re unsure of.

The Guardian lays this out more clearly for us. Daniel Mayeda, associate director of the Documentary Film Legal Clinic at UCLA School of Law, says:

“You can use the Mickey Mouse character as it was originally created to create your own Mickey Mouse stories or stories with this character. But if you do so in a way that people will think of Disney – which is kind of likely because they have been investing in this character for so long – then in theory, Disney could say you violated my trademark.”

What do you think?


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  1. Don’t care anything about NOTHING that comes from Disney anymore. They went WOKE & I hope they go BROKE.

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