If you are unfamiliar with "Bert the Farting Hippo," then just ask your dad: it's a recurring prop on his favorite CBS procedural, NCIS. The makers of the plush hippo that makes farting noises and costs $45 are suing the network and Delivery Agent Inc., the company that operates their online store, for alleged copyright infringement and for lost profits.
It is, ostensibly, the most convoluted lawsuit involving a stuffed, farting hippo ever. Folkmanis, Inc. is the creator of the plush hippo, which was first used as a prop on NCIS in 2003 (yes, NCIS has been on that long!). Bert the Farting Hippo went on to appear as a recurring sight/sound gag on the show; Folkmanis went on to "retire" the toy in 2006, only to design and release a new, updated version of Bert in 2009. That's when the opportunity for further profits first made itself even more obvious. From the Wrap:
A year later, CBS figured that the Bert had become so popular, they might as well cash in on it by selling farting puppets to dedicated "NCIS" fans. They contracted with Folkmanis to make a new version — one that had a spiked collar and a little internal box that made the prescribed fart sound effect.
The company produced 30,000 stuffed hippos for CBS and their online store operator Deliver Agency Inc. to sell; in 2011, they even commissioned the creation of a Bert keychain. Everyone was just swimming in stuffed hippo money. But not for too long, apparently. From the Wrap:
According to the lawsuit, Delivery Agent Inc., one of the named defendants, teamed up with another defendant, S.F. Global Sourcing, to contact Shanghai Orlind Toy Co., a company in China. Their alleged mission: procure unlicensed Bert the Farting Hippo toys to sell for CBS.
So now, Folkmanis claims in their suit, they've lost out on $733,000 in hippo riches, and they want CBS and Delivery Agency Inc. to pay out. This Chinese production of stuffed hippos, the Hollywood Reporter writes, "allegedly violates the plaintiff's [Folkmanis] exclusive rights."
If you wanted to buy a Bert the Farting Hippo, you're too late: they appear to have been pulled from CBS' online store. Let's all hope they can work this out. Without this hippo, that's one less Father's Day present option for thousands of Americans.
[Image via CBS]