New Lawsuit Exposes Similarities Between Duke Caboom and Evel Knievel

One would normally presume that K&K Productions, the owners of Evel Knievel’s “likeness” wouldn’t waste time pestering a gargantuan company like Disney over Toy Story 4, but that’s exactly what’s happening — primarily because of Disney’s line of Duke Caboom toys, which K&K says are illegaling using the likeness of an Evel Knievel brand of toy released for public consumption decades ago. Evel Knievel died in 2007, so it’s not like we can ask what he might think. 

Apparently, the issue arises because of how the toys in question actually function. Both the old-school Evel Knievel toy and Duke Caboom toy that propel themselves forward on motorcycles. The Duke Caboom toy was released in partnership with LEGO, which means they could also be dragged into any future courtroom battles that develop.

This lawsuit could have catastrophic implications for Disney’s Toy Story movies and products in the future, because “Duke Caboom” is hardly the first time the movie franchise has included a character with similarities to another franchise because it could not obtain the rights. Most notably, “Combat Carl” was invented after the owners of G.I. Joe’s likeness told Disney there was no way they would hand over licensing rights. Toy Story includes Mr. Potato Head and Barbie because they successfully obtained the relevant rights.

What could happen to those other toys if this lawsuit is won? Well, we might not be seeing them in the future and Disney could be slammed with similar lawsuits in the future. 

To make matters worse for Disney, reports claim that movie producers specifically asked staff not to mention Evel Knievel when discussing Duke Caboom. This could make it much easier for a judge to side with the plaintiff if K&K can prove that the similarities are more than skin-deep. This kind of development incapacity could set Disney back when planning the next movies in the series.

But there’s no need to worry right this minute.

Copyright lawsuits are exceptionally difficult to prove in court and are subject to the opinion of the judge much more than in other branches of law. For example, Disney and Pixar were sued after they released the movie Onward due to a similarity between a van pictured in the movie and one that the studios had rented while they were developing the movie. These cases also tend to drag on in court for years and years, which ultimately makes a backdoor settlement more amenable to both parties. We might never even know what decisions are made.

Several facets of the Duke Caboom character might work to Disney’s favor should the case venture into a courtroom. In particular, Duke Caboom might share similarities to Evel Knievel, but he also shows large disparities, such as being from Canada or being literally terrified to perform the stunts that Evel Knievel seemed to perform with an air of elegance, confidence, and grace. 

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