When the real world and a toy hamster world collide, the results can be surprising. How can this even happen? One example is playing out in the court system right now.
In a 15-page memorandum of law filed on October 26, attorneys for the toy company Hasbro responded to a lawsuit filed on August 31, 2015, by attorneys for Harris Faulkner, a journalist and newscaster at Fox News. Faulkner’s attorneys have claimed that Hasbro’s use of the name Harris Faulkner for a hamster toy in its Littlest Pet Shop toy line has caused commercial and emotional damage to Faulkner. The lawsuit seeks damages of $5 million. Hasbro was notified in January 2015 to stop using her name, but continued to do so.
Hasbro’s attorneys state that the company did not misappropriate Faulkner’s identity. The memorandum denies any resemblance between the toy and the journalist. It also states that having the same name doesn’t constitute taking identity, as the memorandum states below.
The mere use of a real person’s name for a fictional character is not actionable as a right of publicity claim absent additional evidence that the unique identity of that person has been misappropriated. And while Ms. Faulkner contends that the Hamster Toy misappropriated her appearance as well, a comparison of the miniature hamster toy and the human Ms. Faulkner reveals that the allegation is implausible on its face, as no reasonable fact-finder could conclude that the two bear any resemblance to one another.
The memorandum concludes below with a summary that requests dismissal of Faulkner’s claim regarding her right of publicity. The requested return date on the memorandum is December 21, 2015.
Ms. Faulkner’s right of publicity claim must be dismissed because the only similarity between her and the Hamster Toy is the name, which is insufficient to establish that her identity was misappropriated under well-established law. The Court should reject Ms. Faulkner’s implausible contention that the Hamster Toy, one of hundreds of fictional characters in the make-believe world of Littlest Pet Shop, resembles her, especially in light of the opposite contexts in which Ms. Faulkner and the Hamster Toy exist.