The six-time News Emmy winner is not happy at all about the “demeaning and insulting” Hasbro toy hamster that has both her name and, she claims, her look. In fact, Fox News Channel’s Harris Faulkner is taking the world’s third-biggest toy manufacturer to court for $5 million over under trademark law for false endorsement and unfair competition as well as violation of her right of publicity. In addition to the financial damages, the Outnumbered co-anchor wants a full accounting of how much Hasbro has made off the toy and the company stopped from making and selling any more of that Harris Faulkner.
Let’s be honest – Harris Faulkner is not the most common name around and the journalist has been in the public eye for many years before Hasbro introduced the toy as part of its Little Pet Shop line back in 2014. In fact, Faulkner’s lawyers say she put Hasbro on notice about the matter in January this year but nothing happened. Well into the summer the toy was available for purchase off Hasbro’s online store – which might be of additional interest to you if you are a Terri Bowman or Dash McDernutt. The Harris Faulkner toy hamster does not seem to be on Hasbro’s Little Pet Shop site today.
But doubt that would quell the Fox Report Weekend anchor’s ire at this point. The “uniquely named, acclaimed veteran journalist and author” says in her complaint against the multibillion-dollar company filed this week in federal court (read it here) that she has “worked for decades to establish and maintain her personal brand and laudable professional reputation.” The toy hamster doesn’t exactly help that journo brand.
“Hasbro’s manufacture, sale, and distribution of the Harris Faulkner Hamster Doll is extremely concerning and distressing to Faulkner,” says the sharp 15-page filing. “In addition to its prominent and unauthorized use of Faulkner’s name, elements of the Harris Faulkner Hamster Doll also bear a physical resemblance to Faulkner’s traditional professional appearance, in particular tone of its complexion, the shape of its eyes, and the design of its eye makeup. Hasbro’s capitalization on Faulkner’s name, likeness, identity, and persona is underscored with the display of the ‘TM’ symbol after her name and a statement on the back of the packaging that this symbol ‘denote[s] U.S. Trademark’ that—falsely—claims that Hasbro owns a United States trademark in ‘Harris Faulkner.'”
And then there are the issues of being associated with a toy that could prove a “choking hazard” for young children and professional perception. “Further, Faulkner does not endorse products of any kind, as doing so would be a breach of journalistic ethics, would directly harm her professional credibility, and would be in violation of her contractual obligations to her employer,” the complaint adds. “This means that Hasbro misappropriated Faulkner’s name, likeness, identity, or persona without consent, for its own profit, for the purpose of capitalizing off of her good name and persona, all at Faulkner’s expense.”
“While we generally do not comment on litigation matters, it is critically important to correct a false statement made by Ms. Harris in the complaint regarding the safety of the product,” said a Hasbro spokesperson in reaction to the lawsuit. “The Littlest Pet Shop product identified, and all products in the Littlest Pet Shop line, meet and exceed all safety standards.”
Having filed in New Jersey, the real life Faulkner is represented by Paul Halasz and Dennis LaFiura of Day Pitney LLP of Parsippany in the Garden State. Dori Ann Hanswirth, Theresa House and Patsy Wilson of NYC’s Hogan Lovells US LLP are also providing counsel.