FoxNews Takes on Powerful New Foe – The Littlest Pet Shop
FoxNews Anchor, Harris Faulkner, has sued Hasbro Inc., manufacturer of The Littlest Pet Shop toys, for misappropriation of her name and likeness and violation of her right-of-publicity. Ms. Faulkner claims that the hamster toy named “Harris Faulkner,” pictured below, unlawfully uses her name and “distinctive persona” for financial gain; Hasbro’s defense relies heavily on the differences between the plaintiff and toy hamster, including the toy’s golden fur, cute little pink nose and white muzzle, and further relies on the fact that it is a two-inch tall plastic toy hamster and she is a full-grown human woman.
Right-of-publicity claims are appropriate when someone commercially exploits the identity of a well-known person or celebrity, without their consent. This body of law recognizes that celebrities have value in their identities, which can translate to financial and other benefits via the promotion of products and services and other marketing avenues. It is not necessary for the exact name or likeness to be used; if the violating party evokes or otherwise suggests or conveys the identity and persona of the celebrity, it is a violation of the right-of-publicity.
The famous example defining this right was White v. Samsung in 1992. Samsung ran an ad depicting the future (ironically, the ad was for VCRs), wherein a robot-version of Vanna White was turning letters on a giant game board. The US Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit held that, even though they didn’t use White’s name or even her likeness, they were very obviously evoking her persona, popularity and recognition for commercial gain. (989 F.2d 1512 (1993)) See Robot Vanna White in article by Smithsonian.com about futuristic advertising.
The claim in Hamster Harris v. Human Harris was filed in federal court in Newark, NJ last August; unless dismissed before then, a hearing will be held in December.
Attorney Kimberly A. Spotts-Kimmel, a partner in the Business Services Group, counsels businesses that maintain an online presence in all legal aspects of internet law. She also works with a wide range of clients, from small businesses and non-profits to large corporations, on intellectual property, advertising, and media law matters.
Attorney Nicole J. O’Hara, a member of the firm’s Business Services Group, has specific experience with intellectual property law. She works with businesses large and small, advancing and managing patent portfolios, drafting patent applications, and resolving trademark, copyright, trade secret, and patent-related issues. She also negotiates contracts for the commercialization of intellectual property including licenses, confidentiality, material transfer, inter-institutional, service, and research contracts.