M-I-C ... See you in court.

K-E-Y ... Why? Because we don't like your shirts.


The Walt Disney Co. filed suit yesterday to block the sales of T-shirts featuring Mickey Mouse and other Disney characters made in Washington and distributed throughout the area. The T-shirts are alleged by Disney to be among several made by two Washington souvenir companies in violation of federal copyright and trademark laws.

The most popular of the T-shirts shows the famous mice as a young black couple outfitted by Gucci and Fila and sports the phrase "Yo Baby, Yo Baby Yo" across the top and "Mickey & Minnie, Good to Go" across the bottom. Another shows Mickey with a briefcase and Minnie in a cheerleading outfit.

"There are some of Donald as well," said Disney's East Coast counsel, Robert Ogden, but "Mickey and Minnie are the principals alleged in this complaint."

Carl Powell, the owner of J&L Distributors, one of the companies named in the suit, was on vacation and could not be reached for comment. But an employe at the firm's K Street NE plant, who would identify himself only as "Carl's nephew," denied any knowledge of the legal action and the Disney character infringement.

"We made the Washington striped T-shirt, the Washington Teddy bear club, the Washington hearts shirt, and the Washington checkerboard shirt, but J&L doesn't print anything with a Disney character on it," the employe said. "I've never heard of this lawsuit. No one here's been served any papers."

James Piccolo, identified by the Disney suit as the owner of Souvenir City in downtown Washington, the other T-shirt distributor named in the Disney legal action, refused to discuss the matter.

Disney has filed nine similar suits in the past 20 months in New York, South Carolina, Florida and California. But Disney officials allege that the Washington market is one of the largest they have encountered, saying that D.C.-made T-shirts are sold as far away as California and from more than 60 vendor trucks around the city.

The Southern California entertainment giant earns more than $100 million every year in royalties from the sale of Disney products, and an additional $200 million from retail sales of souvenirs and other items at Disney World and Disneyland parks. The company has been investigating the bootleg sales in Washington for the past year and claims that the sales have totaled more than $1 million.