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CBS sued for selling NCIS farting hippo puppet

Folkmanis Inc., a stuffed animal purveyor, is suing CBS Broadcasting for selling a puppet of a farting hippo featured on NCIS.

Folkmanis alleges that CBS violated copyright laws by selling "Bert the Farting Hippo" stuffed animal puppets. The lawsuit was filed Monday in a California federal court.

Folkmanis says it created the first version of its stuffed hippo in 2002, and the hippo appeared on NCIS in 2003. "It was often accompanied by a dubbed sound effect of a fart attributable to the Hippo 1 puppet, and the show puppet was referred to and came to be known as 'Bert the Farting Hippo,'" the complaint states. Folkmanis then created a new version of the hippo, Hippo 2, in 2009, with a copyright for a "sculpture/3D artwork."

The lawsuit alleges that CBS then contacted Folkmanis, saying that "a hippo puppet would be a profitable product to offer for sale on the CBS Store." CBS then "contracted to have a special edition of the Hippo 2 puppet made exclusively for DA and CBS" to sell in its store. The CBS version adds a collar and a fart sound box to the Hippo 2 prototype. Things took a turn for the worse, though, when in 2012, CBS allegedly shipped the Bert items out of China, which the lawsuit claims is "unauthorized" distribution.