Are New IP Rights Being Created At Disney Shanghai?

Disney China

Rights holders regularly complain about a lack of intellectual property enforcement in China, but the new Shanghai Disneyland seems to have the opposite problem.

Last week, the world’s newest Disney theme park opened its doors to visitors, attracting many who wished to commemorate the first day. However, according to one report, Disneyland employees confiscated a handmade banner from some visitors who had flown in from Taiwan on the grounds that the sign infringed some unspecified IP right.

Even though the sign reportedly contained only text stating “Participating in Shanghai Disneyland’s Opening Ceremony”—elegance lost in translation—without any logos or characters, Disney employees insisted the sign was infringing.

The visitors were reportedly told that even using the three Chinese characters for “Disney” was not allowed, unless they paid for the rights.

The article didn’t say which IP right was supposedly violated, and it wouldn’t be surprising if the Disney enforcers didn’t specify either, since there doesn’t appear to be any actual IP right involved.

Disney can’t claim a copyright on its own name. A trademark claim would be similarly unconvincing, since no reasonable person would think a homemade sign with the word “Disney” written across is actually from Disney.

In any case, Disney clearly seems to have had better luck than the many rights holders who continue to push for more robust IP protections in China. Last year, China’s State Administration for Industry and Commerce singled out the Disney brand as an enforcement priority.

And now, some very enthusiastic Disney employees appear to have taken that further, enforcing an IP right that doesn’t even appear to exist.

As to the visitors’ sign, no word on whether it was returned.