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Lionsgate files trademark dispute against Disney over foreign streamer

Lionsgate has filed a series of trademark infringement lawsuits against the Walt Disney Company in several Latin American countries.

The complaints allege Disney’s plan to launch its foreign streaming service, Star Plus, is too similar in name to one operated by Lionsgate in those same regions.

Overseas, Lionsgate offers movies and TV shows directly to consumers through a streaming service called StarzPlay, which franchises the name of its premium cable network based in the United States. StarzPlay currently operates its service in nearly five dozen countries and counts Mexico, Brazil and Argentina among its regions served.

Earlier this year, Disney announced it would offer its own streaming service called Star Play in those countries and others. Star Play is expected to be operated similarly to the American streaming service Hulu; unlike its other streaming service, Disney Plus, Star Play is expected to offer more mature programming aimed at adults, including comedies, dramas and sports programming from Disney’s library of film and television content.

The plan is substantially different from an approach Disney has taken in other international markets, where mature content is offered under the Star brand as a section within its Disney Plus streaming service.

On Monday, Lionsgate complained that Disney’s decision to use the Star Plus branding would cause confusion among consumers in areas where StarzPlay is offered. Lionsgate also complained about Disney’s plan to relaunch several Fox-branded channels under the Star name. (Disney acquired the channels several years ago when it purchased film and media assets from 21st Century Fox.)

“Disney’s decision to launch a standalone general entertainment streaming service under the name Star Play and rename its existing channels to Star in Latin America… is extremely likely to cause customer confusion in the Latin American marketplace and infringes on Starz’s marks,” Lionsgate said in its civil lawsuit. “Such customer confusion can be impossible to remedy and will likely only increase as Disney launches its marketing blitz in those regions.”

A spokesperson for the Walt Disney Company did not respond to a request for comment. The lawsuit was first reported on Wednesday by the entertainment publication The Wrap.

The lawsuit comes after Disney abandoned its plan to expand Hulu beyond the United States, a move that apparently upset executives at rival media company Comcast, which continues to hold a minority ownership stake in the service. According to a report, the issue between Comcast and Disney led the former company to stop funding the daily operations of the streaming service, which Disney is expected to fully acquire in three years.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is a nationally-recognized, award-winning journalist who has covered the business of media, technology, radio and television for more than 10 years. He is the publisher of The Desk and contributes to Know Techie, Digital Content Next and StreamTV Insider. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, the Walt Disney Company, McNaughton Newspapers and Tribune Broadcasting.
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