Director Meryl Koh quoted in Asia IP article on Mickey Mouse and IP protection

03 May 2024

Our Intellectual Property and Disputes Director, Meryl Koh, was recently quoted in an Asia IP article on the balance between protecting IP and fostering creative reinterpretations of well-known TV characters in the digital era.
Titled "When Mickey Mouse Enters the Public Domain”, the article explores the implications of the recent entry of Steamboat Willie, the earliest version of Mickey Mouse, into the public domain in the United States. Meryl's expert commentary sheds light on the complexities surrounding intellectual property rights and how they evolve over time. Though Steamboat Willie is now in the public domain in the United States, the character may not be copyright-free in other jurisdictions and it would be prudent to seek legal advice on whether Steamboat Willie or other depictions of Mickey Mouse are still subject to copyright protection in that jurisdiction.
Meryl shared that businesses from signatory countries of international treaties, such as the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, may benefit from automatic protection as is the case under Singapore law. However, businesses should still consult local legal counsel to ensure compliance with international copyright treaties and local registration requirements. She also provided guidance on trademark usage, advising businesses to conduct trademark searches and be clear about an expression’s intended use and the goods or services with which it is to be associated to avoid potential trademark infringement.
Businesses need to adapt to the changing digital world. New technologies like AI require legal protection through patents or trade secrets. Meryl advised, “Businesses may also wish to consult with local subject matter experts to ensure that they are not infringing upon the rights of others when developing such technologies – for example, a legal expert in Singapore could advise a business on the scope of Section 244 of the Copyright Act 2021, which provides that computational data analysis may be an exception to copyright infringement.”
Beyond legal protection, businesses can use technology like encryption or confidentiality agreements to minimize unauthorized use of information. If these measures fail, legal action for breach of confidence or contract could be pursued. 
You may click here to read the full article that appears on Asia IP.

Get in touch