On Feb. 17, 2004, Walt Disney was in French courts defending itself against charges by author Franck Le Calvez that FINDING NEMO is an infringement on his creation PIERROT THE CLOWN FISH reported REUTERS. Le Calvez seeks to bar the release on any books and merchandising featuring the image of Nemo, which resembles Pierrot. Disney's lawyers claimed that Nemo's likeness cannot be considered a brand in and of itself. Judge Louis-Marie Raingeard de la Bletiere said he would rule on the case's merits on March 12, 2004. If he rules against Disney a civil trial would begin in November.
The character of Pierrot was registered in 1995, at which time Le Calvez unsuccessfully pitched French animation studios on the idea of a feature. PIERROT LE POISSON CLOWN, which concerns the adventures of a half-orphaned clown fish that lives in a pink sea anemone, was subsequently published in 2002, with illustrations by Robin Delpuech and Thierry Jagodzinski. What prompted the suit was the recent removal of PIERROT from bookshelves by French chain FNAC because of the confusing similarity to NEMO.