A federal appeals court has denied an appeal by the granddaughter of British author A.A. Milne to claim rights to Winnie the Pooh, a setback to the ally of the Walt Disney Co., court documents showed Wednesday.
The denial of the appeal by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals was a victory for the Slesinger family, which owns the U.S. merchandising rights to the lucrative Pooh franchise and has been locked in a decade-long legal dispute with Disney.
A spokesman for the Slesinger family said that Disney had manipulated Milne and that the Jan. 15 decision paved the way for a trial on their claim that Disney owes them hundreds of millions of dollars in unpaid royalties.
A spokesman for Disney was not immediately available for comment.
Disney joined Milne in her original suit in November 2002 and had struck a deal with her to continue marketing Pooh merchandise if she recaptured the rights to the honey-loving bear.
Milne had sought to recapture the rights under a 1998 change in U.S. copyright law. Her grandfather had sold the U.S. marketing rights to the Slesinger family in 1930.
The Slesinger family in turn assigned the rights to Disney in 1961.