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Nasty Elmo Is Gone, And The Others Are Tickled

Publication Date: 
June 25, 2012
Source: 
The New York Times - City Room
Author: 
Vivian Yee and Kirk Semple

Professor Paul Goldstein was quoted in the following New York Times article discussing how difficult it is to try brand impersonators with intellectual property violations. Vivian Yee and Kirk Semple filed the report:

The pedestrian plazas of Times Square are prime territory for the Elmo impersonators of New York, who, dressed as the familiar, cuddly Sesame Street character, compete for tourists' camera lenses and cash. But there was one Elmo who not only drove tourists off, but made his fellow Elmos back nervously away.

On Monday, the day after the police ejected a man wearing the furry, red costume from Central Park for exploding into an obscenity-laced rant, other Elmos around New York said they recognized the man from previous clashes and expressed hope that his brush with the law would help their trade's reputation.

...

Companies may disapprove, but the impersonators rarely, if ever, face any legal challenges, said Paul Goldstein, a Stanford Law School professor who specializes in intellectual property law. For one thing, there are too many of them, not just in Times Square but around the world. For another, the threat impersonators pose to the brand is usually too small to warrant an expensive lawsuit.

"You can't just stamp out every little fire," Mr. Goldstein said.

...

Fake Minnie Mouses and SpongeBob SquarePants - or Elmos spewing anti-Semitic chants - can tarnish a brand that companies have worked hard to establish as kid-friendly and clean, Mr. Goldstein said.