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Bubba’s teeth are rotten, but an Illinois jury found that Billy-Bob’s five stumpy, stained teeth are the original dental disaster. The Billy-Bob with the diseased smile is Billy-Bob Teeth Inc., which in court papers presented itself as “the innovator and most renowned producer of custom fitted costume teeth.” The jury agreed and awarded company owner Jonah White $142,046 against Novelty Inc. of Indianapolis for infringing the Billy-Bob copyright by marketing its Bubba Teeth. “They look like real teeth in horrible condition,” said Robert Lancaster of St. Louis’ Bryan Cave, who with Rebecca R. Jackson represented Jonah White, owner of Billy-Bob Teeth Inc. of Hardin, Ill. Richard Bailey invented the novelty teeth while he was a dental student, said Lancaster. Rotting teeth have a certain Halloween cachet, so this is the fourth time the company has sued to defend its copyright, Lancaster said. Billy Bob Teeth Inc. v. Novelty Inc., No.99-963-DRH (S.D. Ill.). “Jonah White had a discussion with Novelty Inc. about distributing Billy-Bob Teeth, and around March 1999, they requested samples of the product,” Lancaster said. “The samples were sent, and he didn’t think about it again for six months, until he sees what he believes is his product in a convenience store.” During discovery, Lancaster obtained e-mail messages sent from an executive at Novelty Inc. to a factory in Taiwan, where the sample teeth were sent to be reproduced. One said, “Today I sent some Billy-Bob Teeth. You need to change so they are not copied. This could be a good item.” During trial, Lancaster presented an expert witness, a dental technician, who detailed the identical dental diseases suffered by both Bubba and Billy-Bob. “The jury just loved him,” he said. Kurt N. Jones of Woodard, Emhardt, Naughton, Moriarty & McNett of Indianapolis, who with John L. McMullin of Brown & James of St. Louis defended Novelty, said that the company is appealing. “Did they prove ownership? We don’t think so,” Jones said. Jones added that he determined in talking to jurors after trial that they were confused on the legal point separating authorship and ownership in copyright law.

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