Walt Disney has lost a legal appeal in a $1bn (£627m) dispute over marketing rights for Winnie the Pooh, Disney's opponents have said.
Pooh is a huge money-spinner for Disney
Stephen Slesinger Inc, which owns the rights to the Pooh name, said a court had denied Disney the chance to contest crucial evidence at the centre of the case.
The latest stage of the long-running wrangle involves the destruction of important documents, which Disney says happened innocently.
Slesinger says the entertainment giant knew the documents were central to its case for a bigger share of income from Pooh films and merchandise.
Disney claims to have won worldwide rights to Winnie the Pooh and other AA Milne storybook characters.
Slesinger disputes Disney's position and says it signed an agreement to buy the rights to Pooh in 1929, before licensing them to Disney - its business partner - in 1961.
Referring to Disney's destruction of the documents, Slesinger lawyer Bert Fields said: "They can shred, but they can't hide."
He has said that the ruling means a jury will be told that Slesinger's version of some key conversations about licensing terms were true.
In November, a California appeals court upheld a previous ruling that Disney had been false and evasive in a decision that hinged on a technicality.
Disney says it could be liable for hundreds of millions of dollars if it loses the case at the California Supreme Court.
Slesinger's case is that Disney has short-changed it of its share in profits on the lucrative Pooh franchise.
It generates about $1bn in annual revenue for Disney.
Both sides expect a trial scheduled for March to be postponed while a court rules on a separate motion filed by Disney earlier this month.
It accuses Slesinger's side of stealing documents - a charge Slesinger denies.