Barney the dinosaur sued after legal threats

After trademark lawyers threaten sites critical of portly purple Tyrannosaur, EFF responds with lawsuit of its own.

Barney, the plush purple saurian, likes to sing about love, hugs and kisses.

But the dinosaur's lawyers have taken precisely the opposite view when threatening Web sites that display less-than-flattering images of the plump T-Rex--a legal tactic that finally led to a lawsuit on Wednesday from the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Barney
Credit: Stuart Frankel

The suit, filed in federal district court in New York, argues that trademark claims by Barney's owners have threatened "free expression rights" by trying to rid the Internet of Barney parodies and negative depictions. The trademark is owned by Lyons Partnership.

EFF and the Akin Gump law firm are representing Stuart Frankel, who maintains the "Source of All Evil" site with a rendering of a vaguely Satanic cartoon tyrannosaur. Frankel writes: "The Barney Creature is a voracious, bottomless pit. All who oppose it with ridicule must be destroyed."

Matthew Carlin, an associate at the New York firm of

Carlin did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday.

This is hardly the first time that Barney's attorneys have tried to stamp out criticism of the rotund children's show character.

Matthew W. Carlin
Matthew W. Carlin
Barney's attorney

Last year, Carlin threatened Baltimore-area programmer Rob Carlson whose Web site features a photograph of a Barney toy suspended from the ceiling.

Barney's lawyers once sued the creator of a sports mascot that, as part of its performance, assaulted and generally did violence to a Barney look-alike.

But the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in 1999 that the performance was a parody and not forbidden by trademark law. "Even if young children--like the 2-year-old who had such a traumatic reaction to the down-trodden Barney--are in attendance, we would expect them to be supervised by parents who could explain the nature of the parody," the court decided.

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