The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed that “lightly sketched anthropomorphized characters representing human emotions” were not copyrightable. Daniels v. Walt Disney Co., Case No. 18-55635 (9th Cir. Mar. 16, 2020) (McKeown, J.).
Denise Daniels created The Moodsters Company. The Moodsters were five named characters, each color-coded to an emotion. The Moodsters Company developed a pitchbook in 2005, a pilot episode for television in 2007, and toys and books of a second generation of The Moodsters by 2013. Daniels and The Moodsters Company also pitched The Moodsters to Disney. In 2010, Disney began developing a movie about five anthropomorphized emotions called Inside Out.
Daniels brought a claim of copyright infringement against Disney. After the district court granted Disney’s motion to dismiss, Daniels appealed.