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Monopoly corrupts. Absolute monopoly corrupts absolutely.





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Copyright Monopolies Apparently Extend To Farting Dolls

If that fart doll that you wanted to buy happens to be more expensive this year, you can thank the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals based on its decision today in JCW Investments Inc. v. Novelty Inc. (Note how the court is careful enough to include the ® trademark sign in its decision when it refers to "Pull My Finger Fred". Do they do the same if they mention the Academy Award Oscars® in a decision?):

Meet Pull My Finger® Fred. He is a white, middle-aged, overweight man with black hair and a receding hairline, sitting in an armchair wearing a white tank top and blue pants. Fred is a plush doll and when one squeezes Fred's extended finger on his right hand, he farts. He also makes somewhat crude, somewhat funny statements about the bodily noises he emits, such as “Did somebody step on a duck?” or “Silent but deadly.”

Fartman could be Fred's twin. Fartman, also a plush doll, is a white, middle-aged, overweight man with black hair and a receding hairline, sitting in an armchair wearing a white tank top and blue pants. Fartman (as his name suggests) also farts when one squeezes his extended finger; he too cracks jokes about the bodily function. Two of Fartman's seven jokes are the same as two of the 10 spoken by Fred. Needless to say, Tekky Toys, which manufactures Fred, was not happy when Novelty, Inc., began producing Fartman, nor about Novelty's production of a farting Santa doll sold under the name Pull-My- Finger Santa.

Tekky sued for copyright infringement, trademark infringement, and unfair competition and eventually won on all claims. The district court awarded $116,000 based on lost profits resulting from the copyright infringement, $125,000 in lost profits attributable to trademark infringement, and $50,000 in punitive damages based on state unfair competition law. The district court then awarded Tekky $575,099.82 in attorneys' fees. On appeal, Novelty offers a number of arguments for why it should not be held liable for copyright infringement, argues that Illinois's punitive damages remedy for unfair competition is preempted by federal law, and contends that the attorneys' fees awarded by the district court should have been capped according to Tekky's contingent-fee arrangement with its attorneys. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm.

Somewhat to our surprise, it turns out that there is a niche market for farting dolls, and it is quite lucrative…

[Hat-tip: Decision of the Day Blog]


Comments

Meanwhile Howard Stern's cable channel has released a Fartman movie at http://www.atomfilms.com/film/fartman_caught.jsp. Check it out!
Unfortuantly when your name is Fred folks think it's a pretty funny gift.
Fred: Have you thought about copyrighting your name then suing them for copyright infringement??
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