At this point, fans are pretty familiar with Keanu Reeves defying gravity and being an all-around kick-ass action star, both in live-action and in animated films. Reeves’ Toy Story 4 character Duke Caboom has been the source of a lawsuit claiming the character infringes on Evel Knievel trademarks, and almost exactly a year after being filed, the lawsuit has reached a conclusion.
It’s good news for Walt Disney; according to Bloomberg Law, Nevada courts have ruled that the Toy Story 4 character Duke Caboom holds up as a creative creation of Disney’s own. K&K Promotions Inc., the company who filed the lawsuit back in September of 2020, apparently failed to prove that the Keanu Reeves voiced character was meant to represent Evel Knievel or that Disney was using the character to try and confuse viewers that Knievel was associated with Toy Story 4.
Evel Knievel is widely known as a death defying stuntman, and just may be the most recognizable stuntman name that there is. Disney’s creation of Duke Caboom does have some similarities to the famous stuntman, but apparently there are enough differences to have kept them out of hot water.
The two stuntmen both have similar stunt suits, though there are some obvious differences. Evel Knievel’s suit had a “V” made out of stars on the front of his suit while Duke Caboom did not. They both do have capes, however Duke Caboom has the Canadian flag on his.
Duke Caboom’s backstory is that he is the toy representation of a Canadian stuntman, hence the cape. He also has a very different facial hair situation going on than Evel Knievel’s clean shaven look. The wildly different names and the stunt suit paired with both the differing backstory and facial features were enough for Nevada courts to rule in favor of Disney.
It would seem there is a special test designed to rule on cases like that of K&K Prods. Inc. v. Walt Disney Studios Pictures. The test was first established in and is named after another trademark case; the Rodgers test is used to balance trademark licensing with 1st Amendment rights. The test found that the character of Duke Caboom met the artistic relevance required (which is merely above zero) in Toy Story 4.
Judge James C. Mahan, who presided over the case in Nevada, also ruled that the character of Duke Caboom was “sufficiently transformative” and did not violate any trademark rights, including that of publicity.
While there currently is not a confirmed Toy Story 5 in the works and it’s unclear if Keanu Reeves’ character Duke Caboom would be involved if there were, a Toy Story spinoff movie about Buzz Lightyear’s origins, Lightyear, is in the works at the Disney owned company Pixar. Fans of the animated franchise can expect Lightyear in 2022, currently set for June 17th.
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