Although some are calling it “stupid tricks,” a dispute concerning puppets filed by a company against a television writer has brought national attention to the issue of similarity of products in this electronic media age ( v. Smigel, N.D. Calif., No. C-00-1297, filed 4/12/00).

The suit was reportedly filed to pre-empt a trademark infringement action. Triumph is a cigar-smoking, rubber dog sock puppet whose favorite word is “poop.” He was created by writer Robert Smigel and made his debut on Feb. 13, 1997, on the NBC-television program “Late Night with Conan O’Brien, on which he appears frequently. Triumph also made appearances at the last two years’ Westminster Dog Shows, and last year NBC used him to help present its fall schedule to advertisers. His scathing comments about television, advertising, and NBC itself brought thunderous applause from the industry executives at Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall. For example, in commenting on the network’s show “Veronica’s Closet” and its star Kirstie Alley, Triumph said, “Is that poop still on the air? Are you kidding me? Whose leg did Kirstie Alley have to hump to get that?”

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