Yes, you read the headline right: A stuffed, farting hippo is at the center of a pretty strange lawsuit. It may not make any sense at the moment, but let us explain.
Folkmanis, Inc is a company that makes stuffed puppets, like hippos. The first version of the company's hippo puppet came out in 2002, referred to in the lawsuit as "Hippo 1."
In 2003, CBS used "Hippo 1" as a prop in the crime drama "NCIS," and in the show, "Hippo 1" was known as "Bert the Farting Hippo." (There was a farting sound effect added.)
Bert belonged to Abby, played by Pauley Perrette. TV Guide notes that viewers got such a kick out of it, it became a recurring character, appearing on over 12 episodes. (We checked IMDB to see if he got credit, but all we found were some listings for 'fart' and 'bert.')
"Bert the Farting Hippo" became really popular, so CBS teamed up with Folkmanis to make actual farting hippo puppets that could be sold, known as "Hippo 2."
The Wrap explains that for a while, things were going well, and 30,000 hippos were made for CBS' store.
The lawsuit claims that in 2012, CBS allegedly started having farting hippo puppets shipped from China, making more than $700,000 in unauthorized profits.
The Hollywood Reporter posted this excerpt from the suit:
"CBS and DA had surmised that a hippo puppet would be a profitable product to offer for sale on the CBS Store," says the lawsuit. "DA contacted Folkmanis and contracted to have a special edition of the Hippo 2 puppet made exclusively for DA and CBS. The special edition Hippo 2 puppet ('Hippo 2.1' puppet) is identical to the Hippo 2 puppet with the addition of a spiked choke collar and a sound box that emulates the sound of a fart. The copyrightable subject matter of the Hippo 2.1 puppet is identical to the copyrightable subject matter of the Hippo 2 puppet."
The Wrap notes that CBS has issued this reply: "We believe this to be a flatulent abuse of the legal system, and we intend to clear the air on this matter immediately."
Who do you think is right here, and who do you think is full of hot air? Share your thoughts in the comments.
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