March 11, 2024

“Disney Copyright Expiration Spurs Trademark Questions,” Law360

In an article published on March 6, 2024, Harness IP Principal Bryan Wheelock provided insight on the copyright expiration of Steamboat Willie, one of the original Mickey Mouse cartoons, and how to properly use the now public domain of Mickey Mouse. While Wheelock explained that this expiration is unlikely to have an immediate impact, he illustrated the best practices for using the cartoon going forward.

“Copyright rights are only infringed if the copyrighted work is copied, while trademark rights are only infringed if the use is likely to cause confusion, mistake or deception. Copyright rights protect the author, while trademark rights serve a dual purpose, protecting the public from confusion as well as the trademark owner,” wrote Wheelock.

Wheelock further explained how trademark rights are separate from copyright rights, demonstrated through various Supreme Court cases debating trademark law and patent protection.

The full article may be accessed here by subscribers.




Harness IP is celebrating more than 100 years as an intellectual property law firm. Founded in 1921, the firm currently holds a No. 2 ranking from IAM Media for providing counsel to 44 companies with the largest portfolios of issued U.S. patents. The firm also ranks No. 6 for filing the most patent applications on behalf of those companies. Harness IP’s attorneys and IP professionals focus exclusively on patents, trademarks, global IP management, litigation and other IP rights. The firm has offices in metropolitan Dallas, Detroit, St. Louis, and Washington, D.C. Visit for more information.