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How Russian minister of culture resolved the dispute with copyright in popular cartoons between Danone and “Souzmulfilm”

There are a lot of popular Russian cartoons in Russia. Such cartoons have been produced in soviet times. Therefore almost nobody has cared about copyright. With appearance of private capital the copyright became a very important thing. Therefore the matter of copyright ownership suddenly arisen for some companies. Their business bases on copyright. Without rights in content the existence of such companies does not make a sense.

The copyright in cartoons, produced in soviet times, always was a subject of many disputes. Even for Russian cartoon studio “Souzmultfilm” and Danone. Souzmultfilm always believed it has all copyrights in many popular cartoons. People still like such cartoons and TV companies still broadcast them very often. Danone produces dairy products in Russia and uses the characters from one popular cartoon “Prostokvashino”. Certainly Danone obtained a licence to use them, but not from Souzmultfilm and paid money to other person. Souzmultfilm did not like it.

At last Souzmultfilm complained to Russian minister of culture Vladimir Medinsky. Medinsky did not wait with reaction. Last year he “said Hello” to Danone and promised this company “problems in near future”. “Souzmultfilm transferred all its rights in characters to different companies and received royalties from users indirectly”, – he said.

Danone uses characters from popular cartoon “Three from Prostokvashino” in production and promotion of dairy products under the brand “Prostokvashino”. The main character of this brand is cat “Matroskin”, created by cartoonist Nikolay Erikalov and dubbed by Oleg Tabakov.

Vice-president of Danone in Russia explained that the rights in brand “Prostokvashino” have been “duly obtained and legalized from person, who thought up this story”. She said this person is writer Eduard Uspensky, the author of literary work. Danone controls all graphic, depicting characters of cartoon, and word trademarks.

The rights for commercial exploitation of cartoon characters belong to studios, which produced cartoons in question. In this case it was Souzmultfilm. And the Russian Supreme Court confirmed it. Souzmultfilm believes it owns all intellectual property rights in characters of cartoon. The cartoon studio has sent few times a complaint to Danone. But did not receive reply.

Certainly many media asked the ministry of culture (MinCult) for comment about threat “to have a problem”. And MinCult explained it. “The minister said, that Danone will have a problems in case, if legal conflict with Souzmultfilm will be not resolved out of court. Unfortunately media quoted only the most prominent phrase of minister, and hushed his call to voluntary settlement”, – said Elizaveta Anisimova, press-secretary of MinCult.

But this story has happy end. Souzmultfilm and Danone concluded lisence agreement granting rights to use cartoon characters in production, distribution and promotion of Danone’s products. Souzmultfilm will produce more 30 series of Prostokvashino and Danone will have the right to use them in promotion of its products.