Pull My Finger Fred

JCW Investments v. Novelty, 05-2498 (7th Cir., Mar. 20, 2007)

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.

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

In the appeal, the 7th Circuit agreed that a single seller of farting dolls was enough and upheld the copyright on Fred.

 (via Bob Loblaw)

12 thoughts on “Pull My Finger Fred

  1. Mr. Matt, in response to “Most things taken literally true are misleading”, I say…

    …huh?

  2. My name aside, I must comment that this case was even considered close- “You’re pulling my leg, right?”

  3. With 44 separate instances of the word “fart,” “farting” or the like, one could only say of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals “You’re not here for the opinion rendering are you…”

  4. Michael, you obviously don’t realize that this was precisely the sort of thing the Founders had in mind. See Federalist No. 11 (Hamilton) at p. 3:

    “An unrestrained intercourse between the States themselves will advance the trade of each by an interchange of their respective productions, not only for the supply of reciprocal wants at home, but for exportation to foreign markets. And may this trade be advanced through the grant of Exclusive Rights not just for Authors’ and Inventors’ writings and discoveries, but also for the works of Doll Makers, and especially for those Dolls that pass a powerful wind, strong enough to blow the British Navy to the Azores.”

  5. This just goes to show that too many “bad” copyrights are issuing these days. Clearly the “copyright system” is broken and cries for major reform. After all, is a copyright for a FD consistent with the constitutional mandate that federal law may only promote “good” stuff and not “bad” stuff?

  6. Aw, have some fun with this one, David, and leave the policy considerations for another case.

    All I can say is thank goodness the designer of PMF Fred got protection here. Now, future designers of farting dolls can be sure that their works of art will be protected against free riders who would otherwise misappropriate such artistic works.

  7. Please don’t take the following comment as meaning that Mr. Loblaw doesn’t ‘get it.’ It’s clear that he does if you follow the link that leads to the entry in his blog.

    A professional reporting that “the 7th Circuit agreed that a single seller of farting dolls was enough and upheld the copyright on Fred” is the sort of thing that sends the anti-copyright cadres on Slashdot and Digg into sheer apoplexy. Damn the reality, full speed ahead, and all that. The 7th circuit quite clearly did not agree that a single seller of farting dolls was enough, it even went so far as to discuss alternative farting dolls that would have hewed closer to the unprotected idea and steered farther away from the protected and particular expression of that idea. We need to avoid feeding the trolls.

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

    An illustration of the “Long Tail”.

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