Throughout the years since our nation’s inception, the American courtroom has been the stage for some rather formidable legal battles. Marbury v. Madison, Brown v. Board of Education, and Bush v. Gore come to mind. Sometimes, however, it is highly unlikely that some of the biggest match-ups ever make it to the Law School curriculum. Such is the case of a recent Seventh Circuit decision (remember, these Judges are just below the Supreme Court) between two competing individuals: Pull My Finger® Fred and Fartman.
As described by Circuit Judge Wood, Fred “is a white, middle-aged, overweight man with black hair and a receding hairline, sitting in an armchair wearing a white tank top and blue pants.”
In contrast, Fartman “is a white, middle-aged, overweight man with black hair and a receding hairline, sitting in an armchair wearing a white tank top and blue pants.” Did I say “In contrast”? My mistake…
OK, OK, so neither Fred nor Fartman are actually individuals who appeared in the courtroom. Each are, however, plush dolls who “fart” when one squeezes their respective extended fingers. They also make crude jokes following their flatulence, such as “Did somebody step on a duck?” and “Silent but deadly.”
A copyright infringement case against the producers of Fartman, JCW Investments, Inc., d/b/a Tekky Toys v. Novelty, Inc. provides some rather humorous reading. As the Judges come to the surprising revelation that “there is a niche market for farting dolls, and it is quite lucrative,” they must embark upon rather philosophical debate about the difference between the “idea of” and the “expression of” the “comic archetype [of] ‘a typical man wearing jeans and a T-shirt in a chair doing the ‘pull my finger’ joke’”.
Alas, Fartman’s legacy comes to a disappointing end as the Court decides that he is, in fact, too close to being Fred’s twin to have not violated the copyright. Quite humorously, though, and in a possible foreshadow of the Judges’ own venture into that “niche market for farting dolls,” Judge Wood posits his own expression of that comic archetype:
Novelty could have created another plush doll of a middle-aged farting man that would seem nothing like Fred. He could, for example, have a blond mullet and wear flannel, have a nose that is drawn on rather than protruding substantially from the rest of the head, be standing rather than ensconced in an arm-chair, and be wearing shorts rather than blue pants.
Right on, Judge Wood, right on…