Just over a year ago, a very odd lawsuit made the news: a Fox News anchor was suing toy maker Hasbro over a toy hamster. Harris Faulkner objected to the existence of a Littlest Toy Shop collection toy hamster named… Harris Faulkner. This was either a really weird coincidence or some very niche cross-marketing on Hasbro’s part. The case has now ended, though we don’t know whether there was a financial settlement.
What we do know is that the judge in this case issued an opinion [PDF] dismissing Faulkner’s claim that the toy hamster violates her right to publicity — that is, to approve and make money from any products made in her image, something that she chooses not to do as a journalist.
Some states have explicit laws on the books protecting a person’s right to publicity, but New Jersey is not one of them. In a brief in support of Hasbro’s argument that the hamster didn’t violate Faulkner’s publicity rights, things got a bit surreal, with attorneys noting that the hamster “has no apparent gender or
The anchor’s attorneys had argued that the toy “bear[s] a physical resemblance to Faulkner’s traditional professional appearance,” possibly only because the animal appears to be wearing eyeliner and mascara.
The Littlest Pet Shop toys circulate in and out of stores, and Harris Faulkner the hamster is no longer on the market. The case has now been dismissed with prejudice [PDF], meaning that it can’t be resurrected. If Hasbro did settle with Faulkner on the counts that didn’t involve publicity, that isn’t in the public record.