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Complexities of intellectual property in Baby Yoda cases

When companies perceive that a violation of intellectual property rights has occurred, they may want to pursue the party that has committed the violation. However, there are also situations in which the company might determine that there are better courses of action. Colorado fans of “The Mandalorian” might have noticed this playing out around the image of Baby Yoda.

The website Giphy was one of the first that hosted Baby Yoda images as GIFs. They were pulled not longer after they appeared. It is unclear whether Giphy came under any pressure from Disney, which is known for aggressively protecting its intellectual property. The GIFs may have fallen under “fair use” policy given that the creator probably did not make money from them, they did not threaten Disney’s income, and they were most likely satirical. Soon after, the GIFs returned along with a statement from Giphy that they had taken them down temporarily in order to review the situation.

Baby Yoda Christmas merchandise also appeared on Etsy. Although Disney could have filed a lawsuit, the company may have decided that pursuing the creators would reflect on the brand poorly. Instead, the company announced that it would push its own line of merchandise into stores for Christmas. The company has been cautious in the past since early release of Star Wars merchandise has led to spoilers.

As this story demonstrates, determining whether a misuse of intellectual property, including trademark infringement, has occurred is not always a straightforward process. Some uses may fall under the standard of fair use, and in some situations, pursuing the violator may be more costly to a company than not doing so. However, in most cases, a company needs to protect its intellectual property. An attorney may be able to advise regarding the best course of action, and some cases may be settled out of court.

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