Disney Blocked From Launching Streaming Service Amid Major Lawsuit

Disney has been blocked from launching its latest streaming service Star+ in Brazil due to a stream of lawsuits filed by Starz, halting the service from going live in three Latin American markets. Starz filed trademark infringement suits against Disney in Mexico, Brazil, and Argentina last month on the grounds that Disney's new service bears a great resemblance to the Lionsgate-owned network's signature as well as its streaming service StarzPlay, which became available in Latin America in 2019.

The preliminary injunction in the ongoing dispute was granted by Judge Jorge Tosta last week, overturning a previous ruling by a lower court. "Obviously, a consumer, when referring to the streaming services offered by the parties, will not do so by saying that he watched a movie through 'STARZPLAY' or 'STARPLUS,' but simply through 'STAR,'" Tosta wrote in his ruling, alleging that the name Star+ wasn't separately distinguishable from the name Starz and would likely cause "confusion to the consumer public." Tosta touched on the possible risk of diluting Starz's trademark, "especially due to the enormous marketing power of [Disney]."

Disney's original plans were to expand Hulu overseas last year during the coronavirus pandemic, but the company opted for a different plan at the last minute. Instead, it focused its attention on pushing a general entertainment international streaming service as part of the Star brand –– a product of Star India. Disney acquired Star India in its $71 billion acquisition of Fox and its assets in 2019. As far as most international territories are concerned, Star operates as a content collection similar to Pixar, Marvel, and Lucasfilm. However, Disney planned to take a different route in Latin America and launch it as a separate streaming service called Star+.

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The move was only the latest update in Starz series of lawsuits. The network also launched a suit against MGM over a breach of exclusivity. According to the suit, Starz and MGM were under an agreement that Starz would have exclusive rights to 421 movies and television episodes under MGM's slate. MGM's catalog includes Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, Bull Durham, Rain Man, Thelma & Louise, Mad Max, The Terminator, and others. Starz launched the lawsuit after finding Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure available for streaming on Amazon Prime.