Hasbro Contends that Same-Named Hamster Does Not Evoke Newscaster’s Identity
October 28, 2015
Hasbro filed a motion Monday to dismiss newscaster Harris Faulkner's right of publicity claim against the toy maker for giving a stuffed hamster toy the same name as her. The defendant contends that because the hamster toy looks nothing like the newscaster and the use of her name alone does not evoke Ms. Faulkner's identity, the claim is not actionable under New Jersey law. It will be interesting to see how the court addresses this argument given that Ms. Faulkner's entire name was used and it's hard to believe that it was independently adopted. Nevertheless, Ms. Faulkner may not be famous enough to get the persona-effect that Vanna White benefited from in White v. Samsung and should have to prove up her claim that her identity is actually evoked by the use of the name. New Jersey has allowed claims based on use of a character name that evokes the identity of an actor, McFarland v. Miller, 14 F.3d 912 (3d Cir. 1994), so the motion to dismiss is far from a slamdunk for Hasbro -- even if it does make for entertaining reading. Lanham Act false endorsement claims remain regardless.