Even many adults who don’t have children are obsessed with “Baby Yoda.” The star of the Disney Plus show The Mandalorian isn’t even called that in the series. He’s referred to only as “The Child.” However, his resemblance to the iconic Star Wars character is unmistakable.
The adorable creature, who has been compared to a green chinchilla, has become an internet sensation. He (or she?) can be seen in multiple GIFs and YouTube videos.
So why is Disney, which owns Lucasfilm and thus the Star Wars franchise, letting its valuable intellectual property (IP) roam free throughout the internet? The company has a history of litigation against those who use its IP without permission — including preschool classes and children’s birthday entertainers.
Perhaps it fears that shutting down these images of Baby Yoda — who is one of the few comforting, bright spots on an internet increasingly filled with vitriol — would only alienate fans of the little creature.
Disney has actually been cutting down on IP infringement litigation in recent years. Perhaps the company has learned that positive free publicity (like the tens of thousands of fan versions of Frozen’s “Let it Go” on YouTube) is good for business.
Disney’s evolving attitude towards its IP can be a lesson to owners of businesses of all sizes. It may not always be in your best interest to sue over every infringement. Social media can provide free advertising and get your brand(s) out to those you may not have considered trying to reach — or could afford to.
Of course, if an IP infringement damages your brand or hurts your business, that’s another matter. In that case, it’s wise to discuss your legal options with an experienced attorney.