23 September 2020TrademarksSarah Morgan

‘Toy Story 4’ character infringes Evil Knievel IP: suit

Keanu Reeves’ stuntman character Duke Caboom in Disney’s “Toy Story 4” has appropriated the late Evel Knievel’s likeness and trademarks, according to a new suit.

K&K Promotions—which owns the Knievel rights and brand—filed suit against Disney yesterday, September 22, at the US District Court for the District of Nevada, accusing the media company of infringing IP through the Duke Caboom character and film merchandise.

Knievel’s daredevil career began in the 1960’s, when he toured the US performing dangerous motorcycle jumps and surviving crashes, while wearing a “readily identifiable iconic wardrobe” of a white jumpsuit embellished only by “star-spangled red, white, and blue patriotic insignia”, a matching white cape and helmet, and a motorcycle adorned with red, white, and blue.

“Toy Story 4” character Duke Caboom is a 1970s toy based on a Canadian motorcycle daredevil and stuntman. In the film, Duke Caboom “first emerges riding on a Canadian-flag colored motorcycle and dressed in a white jumpsuit, helmet, and cape with Canadian insignia, with 70’s-era Motown jazz playing during his entrance”.

K&K went on to claim that Disney had “expressly instructed” cast members to avoid drawing any public association between Duke Caboom and Knievel.

The company claimed that, prior to the theatrical release of “Toy Story 4”, Entertainment Tonight hosted the film’s cast to promote the film and, during this exchange, “cast members were deliberately skirting the subject of IP theft”.

The suit added: “In a telling exchange, the cast attempted to address the interviewer’s question as to why the new character ‘Forky’ was not named ‘Sporky’, given the character’s closer resemblance to a spork.”

K&K alleged that while actor Tom Hale, who provided the voice for Forky, struggled to answer, Tom Hanks handed a document to Hale and instructed him to ‘look at these talking points’.

“As Hanks hands the talking points to Hale, Hanks points to the talking points in an exaggerated manner and cautions ‘do not say spork’, to which Tim Allen also chimes in, ’do not say spork!’. As the cast members shared awkward laughter, Tim Allen draws out the words “you don’t want to go there’,” added the suit. “Tim Allen then suddenly points to Keanu Reeves and says excitedly: ‘We were going to call you Evel Knievel!’.”

“Notwithstanding the filmmakers’ guarded approach to addressing the clear parallels between Evel Knievel and Duke Caboom, film reviewers universally caught on to the connection,” said the suit, citing a number of examples.

One of these examples includes The Insider’s10 things you didn’t know about ‘Toy Story 4’”. The article noted that “Duke Caboom was inspired by a real person” and that “it turns out the toy was inspired by a real-life stuntman, Evel Knievel”.

K&K has accused Disney of infringing Knievel’s right of publicity, trade dress, and trademarks, alongside trademark dilution, false endorsement, and unjust enrichment.

The Nevada-based company has asked the court to award damages, compensatory damages, profits, and punitive damages.

Kelly Knievel, son of Knievel and the spokesperson for K&K Promotions, said: “Evel Knievel did not thrill millions around the world, break his bones and spill his blood just so Disney could make a bunch of money. He remains an instantly recognised icon, as demonstrated by the huge popularity of the re-issued Evel Knievel Stunt Cycle among kids who hadn’t even been born when my father died a dozen years ago.”

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