Shrinking the parody exception? “Fox News Channel has sued liberal humorist Al Franken and the Penguin Group to stop them from using the phrase ‘fair and balanced’ in the title of his upcoming book. Filed Monday in Manhattan, the trademark infringement lawsuit seeks a court order forcing Penguin to rename the book, ‘Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right.’ It also asks for unspecified damages. Fox News registered ‘Fair & Balanced’ as a trademark in 1995, the suit says.” The suit claims that Franken displays a “clear” intent “to exploit Fox News’ trademark, confuse the public as to the origins of the book and, accordingly, boost sales of the book”. (“Fox Sues Humorist Al Franken Over Slogan”, AP/Washington Post, Aug. 11). Last month it was reported that lawyers for Fox had sent a cease-and-desist letter to the Austin, Tex. creators of a T-shirt with a message “Faux News: We Distort, You Comply”, parodying the network’s well-known slogan. (Lee Nichols, Austin Chronicle, Jul. 11; AgitProperties website, Jun. 20).
In June radio talk show host Michael Savage, who at the time also had a TV talk show on MSNBC, sued three critics who had been urging advertisers to boycott his show (“Savage sues ‘rats’”, Southern Voice, Jun. 27; defendants SavageStupidity.com and TakeBacktheMedia). Separately, Savage’s producers fell short in an effort to argue that SavageStupidity.com’s domain name was “confusingly similar” to that of Savage’s own website and should be forfeited. (& more on the Fox/Franken case: New York Times, Eugene Volokh, Kevin Drum, Matt Yglesias, and (via InstaPundit) Alex Knapp, Jeff Jarvis)(& letter to the editor, Dec. 6).