Disney Beats Fantasy Claim, But at What Cost?

We wrote earlier about an experience where half a dozen people claimed separately to have come up with the idea for a cartoon character that a large company had introduced and made popular – and profitable. We were reminded of that series of lawsuits when we read an article on Law.com about a federal judge who decided that plaintiffs in a similar type of case had fabricated evidence.

The plaintiffs said they had sent to Walt Disney Co. a story line for a children’s animated feature. The story contained references to the PalmPilot. The plaintiffs claimed they had sent the material to Disney in 1995. The problem was the PalmPilot wasn’t brought to market until two years later. In fact, Palm itself hadn’t decided upon the name Pilot until five months after the story line was supposedly submitted to Disney.

While the court found the evidence irrefutable and tossed the plaintiffs’ case out of court, we are confident Disney incurred substantial defense costs. The case serves as an example of the fact that even a company that has done nothing wrong can face serious legal costs in defending itself. In this case, the judge indicated he will make the plaintiffs pay Disney’s attorneys fees. That doesn’t happen very often, but it’s great news for Disney, if the plaintiffs have enough net worth.