CBS is being sued for an alleged copyright infringement over a stuffed toy that goes by the name of “Bert the Farting Hippo.”
The plaintiff, Folkmanis Inc., filed the lawsuit in California federal court on Monday and is asking for a hefty $733,000 settlement, which will cover the profits they suspect were made as a result of the copyright violation.
The stuffed animal has been featured in more than a dozen episodes of NCIS and quickly became a commodity to the broadcasting studio.
“It was often accompanied by a dubbed sound effect of a fart attributable to the Hippo 1 puppet, and the show puppet was referred to and came to be known as ‘Bert the Farting Hippo,'” the crew said in regards to the puppet’s nickname.
It all began when Folkmanis announced its first creation of the hippo in 2002. Approximately one year later, CBS added it to their prop list as a recurring character.
A second version of the hippo was released in 2009, and this was when CBS saw the potential to bring in revenue from die-hard NCIS fans. Bert dolls, around 30,000, and key chains were then made available for purchase at the CBS online store.
In 2011, it was discovered that a China-based company, Shanghai Orlind Toy Co., was manufacturing unlicensed Bert toys and selling them to CBS, which had stopped doing business with Folkmanis somewhere along the way.
The defendent, CBS, reportedly then began receiving shipments from China in 2012. The plaintiff’s executive rights have been violated by the “unauthorized” manufacturing, said the Hollywood Reporter.
Folmanis, along with a settlement, wants every faux puppet and key chain to be destroyed. This is how CBS responded to the lawsuit this morning:
“We believe this to be a flatulent abuse of the legal system, and we intend to clear the air on this matter immediately.”
Bert can no longer be found at the CBS store.