Dear Rich:Could you please advise on the use of trademarked character costumes, Such as Micky & Minnie Mouse, We are from the UK, We have been thinking of buying one to use at children's parties at a cost to the party organisers, But we are unsure if we need to ask permission and if we need to be CRB checked. A lot has happened since we last addressed this issue in 2008. For one thing, Minnie, Goofy, and Daisy (left) appear to have undergone drastic (and controversial) weight loss regimens.
First Sale. Once you buy a Disney licensed character costume, you're free to do a lot of things with it. For example, under the first sale doctrine (which applies under copyright and trademark laws), you can wear your costume around the house or in public, burn it as part of an anti-Disney protest, or resell it.
Disney's rights. However, Disney retains rights over how a proprietary character is commercially exploited. (And BTW, Disney also goes after those who buy and sell unauthorized character costumes.) Sometimes enforcement may seem heavy-handed. That's because companies like Disney view public exploitation -- whether in movies, on a nightclub stage, or entertaining for money at a children's party -- as a violation of their character rights. On the other hand, party-entertainment is a growth industry and the possibility of legal action hasn't deterred some character-based businesses that operate under the radar. In other cases, the owner of a licensed character may provide a way to license rights (so you might want to check with Disney UK). (Note, our answers apply in the U.S. only. Despite the similarity of U.S. and U.K. copyright and trademark laws, we can't say for sure whether all principles apply across the Atlantic.)