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Disney Wins ‘Cars’ Copyright Case in China

Variety logo Variety 12/30/2016 Patrick Frater
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A Shanghai court has awarded damages to Disney and Pixar Animation in a copyright case over a Chinese-made film called “The Autobots.” The court ruled that the film was an illegal copy of Disney’s “Cars.”

The court said that the Chinese producer Bluemtv and distributor G-Point had been fined some $190,000 (RMB1.35 million) and ordered to cease their copyright infringement. “The Autobots” film was released in July 2015, and grossed some $863,000 (RMB6 million.)

Though China has a system of copyright courts, foreign companies have often found it difficult to succeed with copyright and trademark suits. Electronics giant, Apple, notably found itself unable to defeat a Chinese maker of leather goods.

Disney filed the suit in July this year in the Shanghai Pudong New Area People’s Court. The court issued its ruling Thursday on its social media site.

The court said that the Chinese producers had illegally used Disney’s characters and posters. The Chinese title of “Autobots” also sounds similar to “Cars” and constituted unfair competition, the court said.

Director of “The Autobots,” Zhuo Jianrong maintained his innocence throughout. He said that he had never watched “Cars” and his lawyers said in court that the characters had been independently developed from real vehicles. He has previously said that he plans to make a sequel to “The Autobots,” though funds have not yet been raised. Chinese media reported that after the court ruling Zhuo said he will launch an appeal.

“Intellectual property rights protection is key to the growth of the cultural services industry. We are pleased that  the court is protecting the intellectual property righs of creative companies like ours,” a Disney spokesperson in China told Variety.

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