Czech Little Mole at centre of marketing rights battle

The granddaughter of the artist Zdeněk Miler, author of the famous Czech cartoon character Krteček, can no longer grant licenses for the production of Little Mole collectibles. In its ruling on Tuesday, the Prague Municipal Court upheld an appeal by Milena Fišerová, who was authorised to administer Miler’s copyrights in 2006.

Krteček, photo: Robert MikolášKrteček, photo: Robert Mikoláš The iconic character of Krteček first appeared in a 1956 film entitled How the Little Mole Got His Trousers, winning a Silver Lion in Venice. Since then, the Little Mole has become one of the most loved cartoon characters both in the Czech Republic and abroad.

But after its creator Zdeněk Miler died in 2011, a bitter dispute flared up among his heirs over the copyrights to the Little Mole, which has become a successful marketing brand over the years.

In its ruling on Tuesday, the Prague Municipal court met a complaint filed by Milena Fisherová, who has been the administrator of Miler’s work since 2006.

Fisherová challenged the contract in which Miler granted the copyright to his granddaughter in September 2011, just two months before his death. In her ruling, the judge argued that the document was too vague to be valid.

Miler’s granddaughter Karolína said she was disappointed by the result and was ready to appeal to the High Court:

“I am of course disappointed by the ruling, because it is not right. But for us, the ruling of the High Court is more important, since there will be more space for discussion and we will have more space to present relevant documents, which are crucial for the decision-making process.”

However, the dispute over granting licences could also be resolved by a related court proceeding over inheritance rights to Miler’s work, which has been dragging for years. The family members included in the inheritance proceedings are Miler’s widow, his daughters Barbora and Kateřina and his son Michael.

Karolína Milerová, photo: Veronika HlaváčováKarolína Milerová, photo: Veronika Hlaváčová Milerová claims the family has reached an agreement after several years and it’s only her mother Barbora who is blocking it, adding that the family is considering applying to restrict her legal capacity.

After her grandfather’s death in 2011, Milerová established the Little Mole company to develop his legacy. She also launched cooperation with Chinese partners on making new films on the adventures of the Little Mole.

A broad range of Little Mole products, from plush toys to bedlinen, are available in the shops today, licensed both by the Little Mole Company as well as by the contract signed by Fisherová during Miler’s lifetime.

According to estimates, profits from the Little Mole copyrights amount to millions of crowns a year. The total profits of the iconic cartoon character were estimated at around 200 million crowns.