Television

Fox sues satirist Franken for 'trademerk violation'; author's book surges up bestseller list

MUMBAI: Tsk, tsk! Rupert Murdoch's media platforms are masters at dishing it out, but are more than a tad touchy when on the receiving end.

Murdoch's Fox News Network has filed a lawsuit against humorist Al Franken over what it claims are trademark violations for the use of the (rare and unique?) phrase "fair and balanced" on the cover of his upcoming book "Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right." What has got Fox's goat is the tag line "a fair and balanced look at the right."

Franken, who is reportedly on vacation in Italy, has already threatened a countersuit (more in jest looks like) and even thanked Fox for the free publicity. And thank Fox he should because about 24 hours before reports of the lawsuit hit the newsstands on Monday, Franken's book, due out next month, ranked No. 489 in sales on Amazon.com. But by about 5 p.m. (EST) on Tuesday, it had shot up to No. 4 and later in the day made it to No. 1 on the online retailer's best seller list.

In the suit filed last Friday, Fox has said Franken flew into a rage near a table of Fox News personalities at a press correspondents' dinner in April and acted "either intoxicated or deranged." It said Franken has become "increasingly unfunny."

In his retort Franken questioned the way he was described. "As far as the personal attacks go, when I read 'intoxicated or deranged' and 'shrill and unstable' in their complaint, I thought for a moment I was a Fox commentator," Reuters quoted the liberal satirist as saying in a statement issued by his publishers Penguin.

"And by the way, a few months ago, I trademarked the word 'funny.' So when Fox calls me 'unfunny', they're violating my trademark. I am seriously considering a countersuit," Reuters quoted Franken as further saying.

Fox claims it registered the phrase "fair and balanced" in 1997 and that it was created as a specific alternative to the "liberal bias" in the American media.

Franken worked as a comedy writer in the 1970s and has appeared frequently on "Saturday Night Live."

Fox has also stated in its suit that the use of the phrase was intended to confuse the public and boost book sales. Book sales have certainly been boosted, but whether it is because of the book title or Fox's suit is open to debate.

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