Another day, another show getting hit with a lawsuit. This time around it’s the YouTube/Cartoon Network hit Annoying Orange and the person suing is, uh, an advertising agency of all things. Yes siree, they are suing because Annoying Orange allegedly infringes upon their idea for a public service commercial for the North Dakota DOT featuring, you guessed it, a talking orange.
Judging from the picture above, there’s a ton of similarity there. I mean they’re both oranges, right? On top of that, both have mouths, real human mouths that move just like normal human mouths do! Only one adds the eyes, but their irrelevant to the lawsuit apparently.
Yes, I’m being slightly sarcastic, but it’s hard not to, especially when the similarities are far outweighed by the differences. Sure, both are talking oranges, but how many times have we seen that over the course of time. Talking fruit isn’t new, and neither is putting a face on them for that matter.
Furthermore, the nature of the content is completely different. One is a serious campaign for public safety, the other is about entertainment and only entertainment; there’s no safety message there!
So is there any sort of a case here at all? Is this something that creators need to pay attention to or concern themselves with?
It’s unlikely, and here’s why: a talking fruit is not original in any way shape or form, the same goes for putting human mouths on things. It’s a classic technique that has certainly seen use in television for at least a couple of decades. Combining the two surely doesn’t count as anything close to being ‘creative’ under copyright law.
Furthermore, there isn’t a trademark issue either; especially since the client for one of the oranges (the North Dakota DOT) is a public entity; clearly distinct from the private owners of the Annoying Orange. Even besides that, the name of both videos are technically purely descriptive and couldn’t come under either copyright or trademark anyway.
What to glean from all this?
Well, as Steve Hullett over at the Animation Guild Blog points out, there’s a lot of money emanating from one of these videos while the other gets zilch. Readers of this blog ought to be smart enough to figure out why a lawsuit would be filed.