Duke Caboom doesn’t break copyright law, says Nevada court

Is Duke Caboom a rip-off of Evel Knievel? A Nevada judge says no, and Disney doesn’t owe Knievel’s heirs any money for using the cartoon character.

With apologies to Megan Griffiths, aka @megs_braap, Duke Caboom is probably Canada’s most famous motorcyclist these days. As a character in Pixar’s Toy Story 4 animated movie release in 2019, millions of kids watched him on the big screen, along with their reluctant parents, who had to sit with them in the theaters. Voiced by Keanu Reeves, perhaps the most “Canadian” guy in Hollywood, Duke Caboom was a brand-new character for the film, and seemed well-liked; if the Toy Story film franchise follows the general blockbuster path these days, he’ll be there for the fifth, sixth, seventh, and twentieth installation in the series.

Or maybe, Toy Story won’t go the Fast & Furious route, and drag its series out for decades. Either way, Duke Caboom is now part of the entertainment zeitgeist. And that means, the character caught people’s attention, particularly Evel Knievel’s son.

Last summer, Kelly Knievel sued Pixar for false endorsement and trademark infringements, saying the filmmakers ripped off his father’s image without paying. Supposedly Duke Caboom’s on-screen antic implied endorsement by Evel Knievel himself.

A judge in Nevada disagreed, though. The case has apparently worked its way through the Byzantine meanderings of the legal system, and now Bloomberg reports a US District Court judge basically said “Yeah—Duke Caboom is kind of like Evel Knievel, but that doesn’t mean any implied endorsement. So, no payout.”

There’s no word of an appeal, and it seems unlikely. Kelly Knievel was seeking a payout of at least $300,000, but extended scrapping in the legal system will likely make furthering this suit a financially unappealing prospect.

 

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