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A federal judge refused to block Tuesday’s U.S. release of a Walt Disney Co. comedy that Caterpillar Inc. contends will hurt its image and sales of children’s products. Chief U.S. District Judge Joe B. McDade in Peoria, Ill., on Monday denied Caterpillar’s request for a temporary restraining order to halt sales of Disney’s “George of the Jungle 2,” a direct-to-DVD sequel to a theatrical release that earned more than $100 million. The Peoria-based manufacturer filed a trademark infringement lawsuit last week, alleging that the company’s reputation will be tarnished because its well-known yellow earth-moving equipment is linked to the film’s villains. Caterpillar also maintained that the movie could leave a negative impression on its young target audience, harming sales of a children’s product line that reported sales of $850 million last year. The lawsuit also seeks to recall 2.2 million copies of the movie already delivered to retail outlets to edit out Caterpillar’s name and logo. Caterpillar faces an uphill battle for a recall based on evidence presented so far, McDade wrote in a ruling denying the temporary restraining order. The judge said there is no sign Disney sought to “somehow poach or free ride” on Caterpillar’s trademarks to drive up sales of the movie, one of the standards for trademark infringement. McDade also disputed Caterpillar’s argument that use of its name and logo will make viewers think the company is somehow supporting the movie. He called use of well-known trademarks a “common phenomenon” in films and television. “We were confident all along that we had not infringed on Caterpillar’s rights and we believe the court reached the right decision,” said John Spelich, a spokesman for Disney, which has spent $9 million to promote the movie’s release. He said the sequel is “obviously a comedy” and viewers won’t confuse Caterpillar with the villains who battle George and his computer-animated animal friends. In a statement, Caterpillar said it was disappointed with both the ruling and Disney, which has been a partner in other business projects. Disney used the trademarks “in a negative light that is contrary to Caterpillar’s recognized commitments to the environment, social responsibility and sustainable development,” the company said. Along with infringement, Caterpillar alleged that its trademark is diluted by the movie, which describes the equipment as “deleterious dozers” and “maniacal machinery” during a climactic final battle. McDade countered that “it is clear to even the most credulous viewer” that the bulldozers are operated by humans and are merely inanimate implements of the villains’ “environmentally unfriendly schemes.” Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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