Trademark Law

Why ‘Big Red Tickle Monster’ Is Taking the Place of Elmo

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Hit by the threat of lawsuits, companies that provide costumed characters for kids’ birthday parties are changing their ways.

“Big red tickle monster” is replacing Elmo and “explorer girl with backpack” is substituting for Dora the Explorer, the Wall Street Journal reports (sub. req.). The costumed figures not only have new names, they also look different than the famous characters. One fake Dora so frightened the children at a party hosted by Miriam Sorkin in New Jersey, that some of the kids began crying.

The costume companies are making the changes after receiving cease-and-desist letters and in some cases, paying settlements to companies that claimed trademark infringement.

Leslie Ann Hooker, the owner of a costume company in Fort Lauderdale, told the newspaper that fear of lawsuits made her abandon SquishyGuy, a character who takes the place of SpongeBob. Now she provides characters she created herself: a band of environmentally conscious super heroes who are clean, green and crazy.

Some companies that own the trademarks to cartoon characters and superheroes told the newspaper they actively search the Internet to find companies that are using their characters without authorization.

“Trademark holders say they are trying to protect the integrity of their brands,” the story says. “They don’t want Dora to show up at a party with a cigarette dangling from her mouth.”

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