The Chicken (aka Ted Giannoulas) is in civil court again, brought in this time by Barney, the dinosaur of all, er, people. The suit, filed in a Texas federal court by the Lyons Partnership, alleges Giannoulas' act--which involves beating the purple tar out of another mascot that looks a lot like the lovable/loathsome children's character at baseball and basketball games--violates trademark and copyright laws.
Barney's people want Giannoulas to stop using the dinosaur costume in his act. They also want $100,000 for each infringement. Giannoulas has been using the dinosaur in his act since 1994--or at least 100 times, according to his attorney, Ken Fitzgerald. Lyons' suit contends that because Barney's fans are young children, they could easily confuse the real nauseating-to-all-sane-adults character for the one being assaulted by the Chicken.
According to a Lyons Partnership statement on the manner, the company had contacted Giannoulas, demanding he remove the Barneylike mascot from the act.
The decision to file suit was made after Lyons officials spotted television footage of the Chicken attacking the purple dinosaur at a Texas Ranger game last summer. "TV cameras picked up small children in the stands who were visably upset by the Chicken's attack of 'Barney,' the statement reads. "We think fun is fun, but tampering with small kids' emotions is no joke."
Fitzgerald, however, is arguing that anyone can clearly see that the Chicken isn't pounding on the real Barney. "It's a parody, and under copyright law, parody constitutes fair use. Under the Trademark Act, parody is okay as long as there is no confusion [between what's being made fun of, and what you're using to make fun of it]. The dinosaur's eyes are sort of skewed, and the mouth is different. It clearly resembles Barney...but nobody could possibly believe this is the real Barney."
Besides, Giannoulas claims he's run DNA tests on the purple dinosaur in his act, and it's not Barney.
Giannoulas makes about 150 appearances each year, entertaining sports fans at NBA, NHL, Major League Baseball and other sporting events. Widely credited with starting the whole sports mascot craze, this isn't the first time Giannoulas' chicken suit has run him afoul of civil law. He started wearing it in the '70s for San Diego Padres baseball games, representing the local KGB radio station--the KGB Chicken, he was called.
After setting out on his own as the San Diego Chicken, Giannoulas was sued by the station, but a California appellate court ruled in his favor, saying he had essentially created the character himself.
Giannoulas was back in court several years ago, when a Chicago Bulls cheerleader successfully sued him for damages. She claimed the Chicken severely injured her arm when he tackled her and rolled over her during a halftime performance.