Thank you for sharing!

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.
Visitors to Karl ZoBell’s office in La Jolla, California, shouldn’t be surprised to run into the Cat in the Hat, a Christmas-stealing Grinch or a star-bellied Sneetch. After all, the partner at Gray Cary Ware & Freidenrich does spend much of his time protecting the legacy of the man who created those colorful creatures. Indeed, ZoBell represented Theodor Seuss Geisel, the artist and author known worldwide as Dr. Seuss, for some 30 years before Geisel’s death in 1991. Since then, the Dr. Seuss books and their imaginative cast of characters have been protected in an intellectual property portfolio closely overseen by ZoBell, who is also on the board of Dr. Seuss Enterprises, the company that manages the portfolio. On the board, ZoBell works alongside Geisel’s widow, Audrey Geisel. “I couldn’t have a better client and such a fun context in which to work,” says ZoBell. “I didn’t think 40 years ago or even 15 years ago that I would be an entertainment lawyer,” says ZoBell. But he got his chance by having a hand in the move versions of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” and the upcoming “Cat in the Hat” in which Mike Myers will don the familiar red-and-white striped stovepipe hat. As the legal guardian of all Dr. Seuss images, ZoBell had to read and approve the scripts while keeping an eye on the overall look and feel of the characters and sets. The “Cat in the Hat” script took eight rewrites, he notes, because of the challenge moviemakers faced in turning a book that takes only a few minutes to read into a full-length feature. Representing the writer of such classic tales as “Horton Hears A Who!” and “Green Eggs and Ham” wasn’t always so glamorous. ZoBell started out representing Geisel in a real estate transaction and the relationship blossomed over the years. The Dr. Seuss legacy centers on the 44 books written and illustrated by Geisel. Earning extra cash from licensing Dr. Seuss characters was never a goal of the author or the holding company that protects his work. It wasn’t until unflattering Dr. Seuss images started popping up that ZoBell was put to work policing their use. In order to protect the copyrights, Dr. Seuss Enterprises also had to participate in the marketing of licensing agreements, says ZoBell. The company has since become involved in about 60 licensing deals that have authorized the use of Dr. Seuss characters in educational materials, on children’s clothing and in movies. Still, that’s a fraction of the exposure the company could get for the images, says the lawyer. Because ZoBell and Seuss’ widow are concerned that the images will become overexposed and children will lose interest, they proceed very carefully with licensing deals. That also helps to ensure that the Dr. Seuss books, all of which remain in print, remain at the core of Geisel’s creative legacy. The strategy sure seems to be working. Years after it was written, “Oh, the Places You’ll Go” still manages to land on best-seller lists every May and June. The reason? ZoBell says they are perennially popular graduation gifts.

This content has been archived. It is available through our partners, LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law.

To view this content, please continue to their sites.

Not a Lexis Advance® Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Not a Bloomberg Law Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Why am I seeing this?

LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law are third party online distributors of the broad collection of current and archived versions of ALM's legal news publications. LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law customers are able to access and use ALM's content, including content from the National Law Journal, The American Lawyer, Legaltech News, The New York Law Journal, and Corporate Counsel, as well as other sources of legal information.

For questions call 1-877-256-2472 or contact us at [email protected]

Reprints & Licensing
Mentioned in a Law.com story?

License our industry-leading legal content to extend your thought leadership and build your brand.


ALM Legal Publication Newsletters

Sign Up Today and Never Miss Another Story.

As part of your digital membership, you can sign up for an unlimited number of a wide range of complimentary newsletters. Visit your My Account page to make your selections. Get the timely legal news and critical analysis you cannot afford to miss. Tailored just for you. In your inbox. Every day.

Copyright © 2021 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All Rights Reserved.