Thursday, September 10, 2015

Toy Boy

I don't know much about corporate law (except that I break all the ones I can) but it seems to me that if you are in the business of making little toys that bear the names of famous people, your corporate lawyers ought to put down their third martini long enough to get that person's autograph on a contract.

But let's start with 1923, when Hillel, Herman, and Henry Hassenfeld founded Hassenfeld Brothers to make and sell pencil cases and school supplies. Things really took off for the bros when they got into plastics in the 1940s and produced a toy which I recall fondly.  After changing the name of the firm to Hasbro, they brought forth into this world Mr Potato Head!

(It might come as a surprise to today's potato heads, but the original set contained eyes, mouth, ears, a hat and eyeglasses, little plastic pieces, and you had to supply your own potato!)

Here in the year 2015, Hasbro has been making a cute little toy line called the Littlest Pet Shop.  Someone decided that a really good idea would be to make a tiny toy hamster and name it Harris Faulkner.

And that's all there is to that.

Except...that there is a woman named Harris Faulkner who works on FOX News.  She's been there for 10 years, hosting a daytime show called "Outnumbered" and anchoring a Sunday evening newscast.

She does not take kindly to a toy bearing her famous name, and sort of looking like her, so she has filed suit against Hasbro.   She wants more than $5 million dollars, but then again, so do we all. Faulkner says the toy "wrongfully appropriates her name and persona, harms her professional credibility as a journalist and is an insult."

As I skillfully pick my words so as not to taint my account of all this with so much as a scintilla of a hint that merely working at FOX News is harmful to one's journalistic credibility, I have to say she has a pretty good case.  The name is a definite straight-up copy, and, well, look at the picture.  "Hasbro's portrayal of Faulkner as a rodent is demeaning and insulting," says the lawsuit, which was filed Monday in U.S. District Court in New Jersey. The suit goes on to claim that in addition to sharing her name, the toy bears a physical resemblance to Faulkner's traditional professional appearance, including its complexion, eye shape and eye makeup design.
You be the judge!

The Harris Faulkner toy rolled out of the Hasbro factory last year, according to the lawsuit, and was part of a package deal as the pet hamster of a terrier named Benson Detwyler. But the news anchor says she was never asked for permission, nor did she grant permission, for the toymaker to make a rodent in her image.

Other toys in the popular line include animals named Pancakes Watkins, Puffball Petrovsky and Pepper Clark.

Hey, wait a minute! Pepper Clark, according to their website, is a "starry-eyed little skunk pal," and wasn't I occasionally known as "Stinky" as a boy?  Get my lawyers on the phone!

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