Fox News anchor Harris Faulkner has sued Hasbro, Inc. for appropriating her name for a plastic hamster.

According to the complaint,

Harris Faulkner, the uniquely named, acclaimed veteran journalist and author, has worked for decades to establish and maintain her personal brand and laudable professional reputation. Without Faulkner’s prior knowledge or consent, Defendant Hasbro, Inc. (“Hasbro”), a multi-billion dollar toy company, willfully and wrongfully appropriated Faulkner’s unique and valuable name and distinctive persona for its own financial gain—by creating, manufacturing, and distributing for sale a plastic toy hamster named “Harris Faulkner” as part of Hasbro’s “Littlest Pet Shop” product line (the “Harris Faulkner Hamster Doll”).

Little Friend

Harris the hamster is depicted on the packaging as the “little friend” of Benson Detwyler – a plastic terrier.

The complaint notes that the packing for the hamster figure includes a trademark (TM) symbol after Faulkner’s name:

[S]ince Faulkner does not, and as a journalist cannot, endorse commercial products, Hasbro’s use of her name in association with the Harris Faulkner Hamster Doll creates the false impression that Faulkner would impugn her own professional ethics by agreeing to have a commercial product named after her.

Faulkner, a six-time Emmy-winner, complains that this

falsely signifies that Hasbro claims a United States trademark interest in Faulkner’s name, when it in fact owns no such interest, registered or otherwise.

Demeaning and Insulting

She also says that being portrayed as a rodent is “demeaning and insulting.” The complaint alleges that

elements of the Harris Faulkner Hamster Doll also bear a physical resemblance to Faulkner’s traditional professional appearance, in particular tone of its complexion, the shape of its eyes, and the design of its eye makeup.

Faulkner is suing to recover damages for:

  • direct and contributory acts of unfair competition in contravention of § 43 of the federal Lanham Act, and
  • violation of her right of publicity pursuant to New Jersey’s common law.

The case is Harris Faulkner v. Hasbro, Inc.

Takeaway

Personal names can be registered as trademarks. For example, celebrities like Madonna, Brad Pitt, and Taylor Swift have registered their names as federal trademarks.

However, those who for professional or other reasons decline to register their names as trademarks can still (under some circumstances) seek damages when others use their names as trademarks.

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Photo Attribution: “Phodopus sungorus – Hamsterkraftwerk” by Doenertier82 at the German language Wikipedia. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons.

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