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Did a Toy Hamster Violate TV Anchor's Publicity Rights? We May Never Know

By George Khoury, Esq. on October 12, 2016 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Harris Faulkner, the toy hamster, is no longer going to be sold thanks to Harris Faulkner, the Fox news anchor that sued for $5 million because Hasbro made a toy that accidently shared the same name as ... what was her name again? The popular toy was sold as part of the Littlest Pet Shop line of toys, where adorable little plastic animals are designed for children to obsess over until their parents buy them.

In the news anchor's 2015 complaint, Faulkner alleged that the little plastic doll had caused her both commercial and emotional damages. In July of this year, the court dismissed Hasbro's motion to dismiss the complaint, explaining that the allegation that Hasbro used the same name was sufficient to allow the lawsuit to be heard by the court.

Yes, This Is Ridiculous

The attorney for Harris Faulkner, the news anchor, claimed that the plastic fantastic hamster not only shared the same name, but also had a similar complexion, eye shape, and style of makeup. Looking at images for the toy and news anchor, you really have to use your imagination on this one. We may never know whether Harris the news anchor or Harris the Hasbro hamster won the legal battle, as the result reached in this case was a confidential settlement.

Hasbro has pulled the plastic Harris Faulkner from the shelves, concluding this legal saga. But at this point it seems possible that there must have been more to the story. Beneath the surface, is this actually a love story? A political feud? An inside joke between mass media and toy companies everywhere? Sadly, we'll never know. Neither side is commenting. 

What Are Publicity Rights?

Most states have laws that protect an individual's name and likeness from being used without their permission for another's commercial profit. There are exemptions to publicity rights that allow journalists to use an individual's name and likeness for newsworthy purposes.

When a person or corporation appropriates an individual's name and likeness, that individual may have a cause of action if they can establish that the use of their name and likeness was not in connection with a newsworthy story. Laws vary from state to state, and sometimes require someone to be a public figure in order to state a claim. 

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