“Bert the Farting Hippo” often seen – and heard – on the CBS program NCIS has become the center of a copyright suit between the stuffed puppet’s creators and CBS, which is accused of selling Chinese-made knock-offs through the network’s online store.
Folkmanis Inc, which has made stuffed animals and puppets for 40 years, filed a copyright suit in federal court in San Francisco Monday, naming CBS, the Shanghai Oriland Toys Co. of Shanghai, China and a firm used by CBS to find a toymaker.
CBS first used the Hippo puppet in 2003 as a prop for the Naval Criminal Investigation Service (NCIS) show. The hippo was used dozens of times in the show, usually with a dubbed sound effect of a fart attributable to the hippo, according to the suit. He soon became known as Bert the Farting Hippo.
Beginning in 2010, the suit states CBS bought 30,000 “Bert” toys from Folkmanis for sale through the CBS online store and later asked for keychains that included the hippo.
But sometime in 2012, Delivery Agent Inc. bought hippo keychains and toys from the Chinese toy company, without consent from Folkmanis, the complaint alleges.
Folkmanis says raspberries to CBS, its distributor and placement agent and the Chinese company for “slavish copies of Folkmanis” copyrighted Hippo puppet and keychains.
Folkmanis says it is entitled to $733,000 in damages for the infringing work.
That’s one expensive farting Hippo.
The case was assigned to U.S. Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler in Oakland.
Case: Folkmanis Inc. v. Delivery Agent Inc., No. 14-3828LB
Photo: CBS Fan site for NCIS.