In 2024, the Walt Disney Company will no longer be able to prevent other artists or companies from using the Mickey Mouse character image, which will fall into the public domain.
However, Disney also still holds trademark protection on Mickey Mouse, which is renewable for each 10-year period. While copyright keeps other companies from reproducing the Mickey Mouse image, a trademark ensures that other companies are not allowed to use the Mickey Mouse image in order to designate goods that could be considered as being produced by Disney.
Under US law, the mouse created for a cartoon in 1928 is expected to lose copyright protection.
With this, anyone can use Mickey without a license agreement. However, only the version that appears in the 1928 Steamboat Willie short film can be used freely.
According to the country’s current intellectual property law, characters and other artworks are no longer exclusive to those who created them after 95 years of conception.
Mickey Mouse — the creation of illustrator Walt Disney, the rodent that would become the hallmark of a global entertainment empire — whose silhouette consists simply of a large circle and two smaller circles that serve as ears, launched his career with The Steamer Willie, in New York on November 18, 1928.