Copyright and brand owners were celebrating yesterday after a United States court issued a landmark ruling.
The ruling came after Masbrell Toys sued Mr Santa Claus for copyright, patent and trade mark infringement.
Masbell alleged the manufacture and distribution by Mr Claus of toys for the children of the world infringed numerous rights held by Masbrell and its affiliates. Masbrell sued Claus and was yesterday awarded US$1.2 billion in damages.
A spokesperson for Masbrell, Erich von Stroheim, said the judgment brought an end to the long drawn out court proceedings.
“We have been after Mr Claus for years,” said von Stroheim. “Every year he puts toys under kids’ trees. Toys we designed. He’s been ripping us off, depriving us of revenues for years.”
Von Stroheim cites the toy Pedro the Stinky Dinosaur as an example of the loss caused by Claus.
“Pedro was meant to be our top selling toy of 2007,”said von Stroheim. “Every kid wanted one. But Claus had his factories make millions of them, stealing our brands, our copyright and our name. And Pedro’s effluent orifice took us three years to design. We lost millions.
“Santa Claus is a thief,” said von Stroheim.
The ruling against Claus is expected to encourage other rights owners to take action against him.
But Claus is no stranger to legal troubles. Last year he was indicted for multiple breaches of US federal labour laws. And in Australia in 2003 he was prosecuted for deceptive and misleading behaviour, for claiming he would give good children presents, while naughty ones would get nothing. Those claims was found to be untrue and in breach of the Australian Trade Practices Act.
Mr Claus has also served time in prison for burglary and housebreaking. Most recently he served nine months in an English prison in 2004, after being discovered inside a chimney. His claim he was only delivering presents to good children were rejected by the magistrate, who described him as a “common thief” and a “contemptible rascal”.
Claus claims he is misunderstood. “It’s about the kids,” he said. “I’m delivering love and hope to millions. I don’t do this for money.”
But some experts have rubbished those claims. They say that Claus’s enterprise may conceal a range of illicit activities, including drug running, arms smuggling and people trafficking.
“He’s a vulture of the worst kind,” Jasper Smith, of PeopleAid, an organisation that tackles slave labour and the exploitation of migrants. “He preys on the weak and poor. He imports people to his factory complex on the North Pole. He tells them they’re going to a better life where they’ll earn good money, but he exploits them. They work long hours in awful conditions, and with no way to go home.
“Such is his contempt for these poor folk that he simply calls them his ‘elves’. The only way he gets away with this is because he operates outside territorial boundaries.
“And we don’t know who’s funding his operations. We have our suspicions, though. He has a fairly sophisticated delivery system.”
Mr Claus has denied any wrongdoing on his part.
Claus also claims he has no money, and that Masbrell will never see a cent from him. And he vows to continue the fight.
“If these bullies think they can stop me, they’d better think again. I’m not going to stop giving children the joy of Christmas.
“Except for the Muslims and Hindus. They don’t celebrate Christmas, so why should I waste my time with those lousy heathens?”