It turns out that when applied to movie reviews, the "thumbs up" or "thumbs down" gesture, which dates back to ancient Rome, is a trademark owned by Roger Ebert and the estate of Gene Siskel. It now figures in a legal battle between Ebert, who has been sidelined from his syndicated movie-review program At the Movies by illness for more than a year, and the Walt Disney Co., which now syndicates the program. On Friday, the Associated Press reported that Ebert had "exercised his right to withhold use of the 'thumbs' until a new contract is signed." Ebert quickly dispatched an email message to the wire service and other news organizations, maintaining that he "did not demand the removal of the THUMBS." (In a parenthetical note, he said that "THUMBS are [sic] capitalized to indicate a registered trademark; lowercase them [sic] if style requires.") Ebert insisted that during renewal negotiations the previous week, Disney made a first offer that "I considered offensively low. I responded with a counteroffer. They did not reply to this and on Monday ordered the THUMBS removed from the show." Disney has not indicated whether the amputation will be made permanent.