Judge Dismisses ‘Santa Paws’ Copyright Lawsuit Against Disney

Three children's book writers lose suit charging studio with allegedly stealing film idea 

A federal judge in Missouri on Thursday dismissed a lawsuit that claimed The Walt Disney Company stole the idea behind its "Santa Paws' movies, two DVD releases about Santa Claus’ furry, canine helper.

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Children’s book writers Ray Harter, Richard Kearney and Ed Corno sued Disney for copyright infringement last December.

They claimed the movies “Santa Buddies: The Legend of Santa Paws” and “The Search for Santa Paws” were hijacked copies of their short story and script, “Santa Paws: The Story of Santa's Dog” — according to a complaint filed to the federal court in the eastern district of Missouri and obtained by TheWrap.

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Harter, Kearney and Corno alleged “Santa Paws” was conceived nearly two decades before the Disney films were released in 2009.

U.S. District Court Judge Catherine Perry granted summary judgment in favor of the studio in the Thursday decision, ruling that the short story “Santa Paws” was not similar enough to the Disney's films.

Perry did acknowledge the two plot lines shared common elements.

In the plaintiffs' version, a dog embarks on a mission to save Christmas from a witch threatening to drain the world of holiday cheer with her magic icicle. In Disney's version Santa Paws combats an evil icicle that threatens Christmas.

But the similarities failed certain tests.

"There must be substantial similarity not only of the general ideas but of the expressions of those ideas as well," Perry wrote. "First, similarity of ideas is analyzed extrinsically, focusing on objective similarities in the details of the works. Second, if there is substantial similarity in ideas, similarity of expression is evaluated using an intrinsic test depending on the response of the ordinary, reasonable person to the forms of expression."

 

Pamela Chelin contributed to this report