Gremlins vs. Furbies

Furby-maker Hasbro agrees to pay Warner Bros.--and redesign its talking toy--to settle infringement suit

By Daniel Frankel Dec 23, 1998 9:00 PMTags
Think the Christmas season's hottest toy, Hasbro's Furby doll, looks a lot like the character Gizmo from the 1984 hit movie Gremlins?

You're not alone. Lots of toy collectors (some of which are bidding more than $200 at Internet auctions for the $30-list-price Furby) thinks so. So does Gremlins producer Warner Bros., which recently sued Hasbro for trademark infringement.

And, evidently, so does the toymaker itself, which agreed Tuesday to pay the studio a seven-figure cash settlement and redesign its doll, Daily Variety reports.

Although the exact terms of the settlement were undisclosed, Hasbro had every reason to want to get rid of the lawsuit, given that sales of its interactive, belching (yes, the cute little booger suffers from gas), 6-inch doll have resulted in a reported $10 million profit so far.

(Patterned after those ever-evolving Japanese virtual-pets, the Furby includes a microprocessor that enables the toy to actually "learn" over time--it speaks gibberish out of the box, but supposedly starts blurting out English phrases a little while later.)

As for the redesign, that assures you'll have an even harder time getting the toy for your pining kid brother or sister this week, as Furby fanatics converge faster than ever on the current supply of the original version, which, thanks to the settlement, is an instant collector's item. Only 2 million have reportedly been made so far.

And as for Warner Bros., outside of the dough, it's hard to say what they were concerned about, the retail viability of any Gremlins-based toys long since exhausted.

Then again, they can add the settlement dollars to the $148 million United States gross the Joe Dante-directed flick did in '84, and the $41 mil U.S. take Dante's Gremlins 2: The New Batch earned in '90.