Ventriloquist and comedian Jeff Dunham is suing a maker of puppet replicas for violating his intellectual property, a surprisingly versatile term that here means “the design and branding of ventriloquist dummies used to deliver 60-year-old jokes and lazy racial stereotypes.” The defendant in question, Anthony Horn, is accused of creating and selling versions of Dunham’s trademark character Walter, which the comedian originally built in 1987 after stumbling upon the idea of “a cranky old man who says mean things.”
Horn’s Facebook page, which contains as many pictures of smiling, eyeless dummy heads as you could ever possibly need, does feature several images of the Walter replica, although it also notes that the dummy isn’t for sale. Dunham’s lawsuit contests that claim, offering evidence that shows that Horn has sold the Walter replicas on eBay, sometimes for as much as $1,000.
From a legal point of view, Dunham’s case seems fairly open-and-shut. Walter (including the “Walter Trade Dress,” “Walter Copyright,” and “Walter Mark”) have all been patented since 2010, and Horn’s dummy is clearly modeled on what the lawsuit insists on calling “The Famous Ventriloquist Dummy.” Dunham is seeking monetary damages against Horn, and also, we assume, to get sentences like “Jeff Dunham is an extremely popular and well-known ventriloquist, producer, and stand-up comedian,” and “Dunham is known for his clever antics,” entered into the public record.