A Big Canadian Icon, The Mountie, Strikes A Deal With Disney Co.

That a beloved symbol is sold to a US company arouses strong complaints among Canadians

MOVE over Goofy, Mickey, and Donald - Dudley Do-Right is on his way.

A prominent cultural icon of Canada, the image of the Royal Canadian Mounted Policeman, or Mountie, was licensed this week to the Walt Disney Company of Burbank, Calif.

With a wide-brimmed Stetson, red tunic, blue breeches, and black boots, the Mountie is virtually synonymous with Canada worldwide. On the popular TV show "Due South," actor Paul Gross wears the official RCMP uniform, with all the badges and straps in their proper place - thanks to RCMP advisers.

But that's the exception. Increasingly, RCMP officials have chaffed as the Mountie image is indiscriminately used on cheap products - everything from T-shirts, key rings, pens, and toothbrushes, to auto air fresheners. Many of these are not licensed to use the Mountie trademark image.

Dudley would not approve

A Canadian beer company used the image of a Mountie to promote a new beer in England. A recently retired professional wrestler billed himself as "the Mountie" and wore a Mountie uniform while pounding his opponents and poking them with a cattle prod.

"We would like to see good-quality Canadian merchandise with a proper reflection of our uniform and our image," RCMP Staff Sgt. Ken MacLean told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

Still, the news Tuesday that rights to Canadians' beloved symbol had been sold to a United States company produced a flood of calls to RCMP headquarters in Ottawa, putting the RCMP on the defensive.

"We decided to align ourselves with the company that could best do the job," explains Tim Cogan, an RCMP spokesman. "The company that is probably the leader in licensing and marketing in the world."

Until recently, scores of companies made items that depicted the RCMP. Now all those will report to Disney, as the licenser of any items with the RCMP image.

Big dividends

License fees are expected to reap about $25 million over five years.

The hope is that the fees will force the "cheap stuff" off the market, as well as raise revenue to help RCMP pay for community policing, drug awareness, and other social programs.

Dozens of trademark applications have already been filed, according to the Mounted Police Foundation, a nonprofit organization formed to ensure that all use of the Mountie image is approved and licensed through Disney.

The next step will be to get tough with those in the US and Canada who use the image without paying a licensing fee.

The crackdown on violators officially began in April, but will pick up steam this fall when trademark violators will face fines and possible jail terms of up to six months.

The law will apply not only to tourist souvenirs, but also to newly made movies and TV programs depicting the RCMP. Hundreds of movies dating back to the silent screen have depicted the Mounted Police.

The RCMP expects to expand enforcement of the new restrictions on its image overseas after it shows the world that it always gets its trademark violator - at least in North America.

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