“Do you solemnly swear or affirm that you will tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?”
“I do,” I said, as I took my seat in the witness box of Judge Robert Gettleman’s federal courtroom in the United States District Court in the case of Tekky Toys v. Novelty, Inc.
If you’ve ever been in a courtroom – whether pleading a traffic ticket – or something worse – you’ve probably only been in a county court. A county courtroom is imposing enough – but a Federal Court of Law is another matter entirely.
Everything is outsized – which makes everything else seem smaller. The high ceilings, the 12-foot oak wall panels, the great seal of the United States – all designed to make you feel small in the eyes of The Law. The jury box, defendant and plaintiff’s tables all seem small compared to the massive wooden bench upon which the presiding judge, well, presides.
“Please tell the court your name and occupation – and explain for us what you do at Tekky Toys,” asked our team’s lawyer, Mr. Greg, whose hair consisted of a dark, wavy anthracite helmet which more than perched – it sprouted AND clung from his head – causing women to swoon and defense attorneys to look away in fear of the power, skill and cunning it caused him to possess.
“I’m the Creative and Marketing Director for Tekky Toys and have been working with Jamie since 1997, full-time in this role since early 2002.”
“I’m primarily responsible for the graphic and structural design of our toys – the outside as it were – including the packaging, promotions and marketing materials. Jamie and I collaborate on all things – from writing the phrases and jokes a doll might sing or say to brain-storming ways to spread the word and introduce our dolls to a larger market. Jamie is ALL things musical and sound. I guess you could say I’m the cartooning guy and he’s the musical guy.”
Continuing his questions, Mr. Greg asked, “in your role as Marketing Director for Tekky Toys, please describe for the court a specific task you undertook in the marketing of Pull My Finger® Fred and the entire Pull My Finger® doll family…”
“I hired a man named Richard – the owner of a website dedicated to combined music and fart sounds to work with Baba Booey, the producer of the Howard Stern Show. Richard’s job was to help expose our Pull My Finger® Fred doll to a wider audience…”
“And how, exactly, did you and Richard do that?” Mr. Greg inquired.
“I worked with Richard to find a unique way that would entice Howard to talk about our doll – maybe even talk to us. Richard, being the resourceful, part-time Hollywood line producer and aspiring film executive, found and hired an overweight, self-described ‘transvestite stripper’ who could fart on demand – and would be willing to appear live in Howard Stern’s studio – with our doll – to do Howard’s bidding.”
The courtroom giggled and tittered. The actual court ROOM giggled, along with the 40+ people sitting in the Jury Box, the tables for the defense and prosecution and the gallery.
It’s not often that the phrase “overweight transvestite stripper” is uttered in a court of law – especially in the context of an intellectual property case.
The courtroom was filled with the usual suspects: the solemn, all-seeing judge; the court reporter who tic-tac-ticked the keys, creating a ridiculous transcript for posterity, while struggling to keep a straight face as she typed, “…the stripper farted on command and then pulled the doll’s finger, while holding it up to the microphone so Howard and his audience could hear the wet-sounding fart…”; the bailiffs, lawyers, defendants and plaintiffs; the bewildered jury of six – wondering how they had become involved in a federal court case, where drug dealers, crooked politicians, tax cheats and charlatans normally held sway.
Most attentive and serious of all courtroom attendees, however, were the 12 students from Roberto Clemente high school in Pilsen, on Chicago’s near west side. These serious and sober students, who just a few years before might have been practicing making their own fart noises on their forearms , were ‘guests’ of Judge Gettleman and his clerk – who were working to introduce city high school kids to a different view of legal proceedings they might normally not be exposed to.
Unfortunately, being in a courtroom is not an uncommon event for too many inner city kids. The Judge and his clerk were working to expose the kids to the legal system – in hopes they might some day become prosecutors, or defense lawyers – taking up law instead of breaking up law.
And… What better way to expose high school kids to the potentially mind- and butt-numbing nuances of intellectual property law – than with a case about Fart Dolls – where every ‘wherefore’ and ‘hereto’ would surely be followed by “Who Stepped on A Duck?” or “Silent, But Deadly” along with a dissertation on the finer points of protecting an idea (farts) or the EXPRESSION of the idea (Pull My Finger® Fred).
To Be Continued…