Apparently the Fleischer estate has lost a court battle for the rights to Betty Boop, a character created by Grim Natwick at Max Fleischer’s studio in 1930. Fleischer Studios has been co-licensing (with King Features) the property (along with Pudgy, Grampy, Binmbo and Ko-Ko the Clown) for several decades now.
The Fleischer Studio tried to sue Avela Inc. over its licensing of public domain Betty Boop poster images (for handbags and T-shirts). The 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals (based in San Francisco) ruled against the Fleischers, saying in their decision, “If we ruled that AVELA’s depictions of Betty Boop infringed Fleischer’s trademarks, the Betty Boop character would essentially never enter the public domain.”
According to court documents, the Fleischer Studio originally assigned its rights to Betty Boop to Paramount Pictures on July 11, 1941. Paramount assigned those rights to Harvey Films, Inc on June 27th, 1958. Harvey actively licensed the character in the early 1960s. On May 15th 1980, Harvey Cartoons transferred “Betty Boop and her Gang” to Alfred Harvey and his brothers. Judge Susan Graber said there was no break in the chain of title.