NEWS
09/06/2014 05:00 EDT | Updated 11/05/2014 05:59 EST

Deadmau5 vs. Disney: When big business fights for trademark rights

It seems like Mickey Mouse is taking issue with others brandishing his iconic ears.

DJ Joel Thomas Zimmerman, known to most as Deadmau5, is being sued by Disney for incorporating giant Mickey Mouse-like ears in his costume. His battle is the latest in a series of fights over trademark rights.  

Zimmerman, who owns trademarks to his mouse logo in 30 countries and has been using the image for over a decade, recently tweeted “lawyer up mickey” in response to the threat.

And then there was the cat and mouse game with Ferrari.

The Italian automaker raised concern about the musician’s "Purrari," a 2013 Ferrari 458 Spider F1 Edition, plastered with eye-popping graphics of the Nyan Cat, an animated YouTube character.

In a tweet on Aug. 27, Deadmau5 informed his fans that a lawyer had contacted him with a cease and desist letter from Ferrari. In response, Zimmerman restored the car to its original design and posted a photo captioned “vanilla” on Instagram.  

The DJ’s trademark battles are just among the most recent disputes. Below is a list of five clashes between Goliath-like companies and the small upstarts who dared to challenge them.

Don’t Pic on Twitter

Twitpic, the image-sharing website, will be shutting down on Sept. 24 after Twitter complained about what it said was a trademark violation.

For many Twitter users, Twitpic has been part of the tweeting experience, pushing the platform to become more image friendly.  

The news came in a tweet sent out on Thursday saying, “Twitpic is shutting down, read our blog for more info.” 

The post says that Twitter contacted the Twitpic legal team and demanded that the company abandon its trademark quest or risk losing access to the Twitter application programming interface (API).   

Twitpic has been around since early 2008, with an application in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office since 2009.

“Unfortunately we do not have the resources to fend off a large company like Twitter to maintain our mark which we believe wholeheartedly is rightfully ours. Therefore, we have decided to shut down Twitpic,” says the blog post.

Lord of the Olympic rings

The U.S. Olympics Committee forced a 30-year-old Greek restaurant to change its name.

The Olympic Gyro restaurant in Philadelphia received a cease and desist notice in 2012 from the Olympic committee, the nonprofit corporation responsible for training and funding the U.S. athletes. In an email the organization demanded the deletion of the world Olympics from the shop’s name, stating it had copyright of the word under a 1978 law.

In an email to the Daily News, the Olympic committee emphasized the need “to protect the rights of companies who financially supported the U.S. Olympic Team,” corporate giants like McDonald’s and Coca-Cola.

The gyro restaurant has been part of Athens Voulgaridis family since 1984 when his family bought the shop.

"We're very Greek Orthodox, we go back [to Greece] often. For them to take something that is Greek and make it theirs for money is frustrating,” Voulgaridis told the Daily News.

Ultimately, the restaurant owner decided against taking on the fight. In total, the name change cost his business approximately $6,000. He received no assistance with the expense from the Olympic committee.

Apple bikes back

The Victoria School of Business and Technology bit off more than it could chew when it settled on an apple logo for its business.

The school’s logo featured the outline of an apple with a leaf on top, a similar design to the one associated with the tech giant Apple Inc..

In September 2008, Apple sent a cease and desist letter to the business school in Saanich, B.C., claiming the school's logo infringed its trademark rights.

In April 2011, the school announced that it had settled its dispute with Apple and was launching a new logo under the name Q College. The settlement's full terms were undisclosed.

Toucan takedown

In 2011, Kellogg North America launched a lawsuit against a non-profit that supports education for Guatemalan children, claiming that the bird depicted in the organization’s logo was too similar to "Toucan Sam," the cartoon character featured on boxes of Froot Loops cereal.

The battle played out in the media, with the Maya Archaeology Initiative firing back at Kellogg for showcasing an online video game on its website that featured a “culturally insensitive” depiction of a witch doctor who was supposed to be Mayan.

Kellogg apparently decided that the suit was creating too much negative publicity.

Within a few months the food company dropped the claim against the group and even contributed $100,000 to cover a major part of the cost of building its Maya cultural centre in Guatemala.

Bucks rule

Sam Buck Lundberg, the owner of a small coffee shop in the coastal town of Astoria, Ore., population 10,000, was asked by Starbucks to cease and desist her coffee-related activities under the name SamBucks in the spring of 2002.

"When I bought the coffee shop, there were no Starbucks within 100 miles," said Lundberg to ABC News.

Lundberg was offered $500 by the company at the time to change the name, but decided instead to ignore the letter.

Starbucks in turn took more aggressive measures and sued her for trademark infringement.

Despite a multiyear battle that created national headlines and stirred much anti-Starbucks sentiment, in 2006 a federal judge decided that Lundgren was in violation of the company's trademark.

In an attempt to battle the negative media storm, Starbucks sought no damages and declined to make Lundgren pay their legal costs.

MORE:cbcNews