“The Cat in The Hat” used in OJ Simpson Case Satire

In 1995, two authors Alan Katz and Chris Wrinn completed an illustrative work entitled “The Cat NOT in The Hat” depicting the double murder case of OJ Simpson in 1994. The “author” became Dr. Juice and used themes common to Dr. Seuss’ “The Cat in The Hat” series created in 1957. According to the trial between Dr. Seuss Enterprises and Penguin Books, the likeness of character, images, and themes were not approved by Seuss Enterprises nor was Seuss Enterprises even approached for permission. Penguin Books and Dove distributions fell flat to obtain any kind of copyright for this dark humored satire.  Creators Katz and Wrinn tried to defend their use of these trademarks by saying that “The Cat in the Hat” were “objects” necessary for his use to conjure up his own original idea.

Dr. Seuss Enterprises clearly has the upper-hand on a situation like this; they have years of works copyrighted and elements trademarked and they also have a large public presence. In this situation, Dr. Seuss Enterprise had a direct investment to prevent Penguin and Dove from publishing and distributing “The Cat NOT in the Hat!” materials because of the potential damage to the images Dr. Seuss has obtained copyright/trademarks for. The trial article states that direct copies of the Cat were used 13 times on the “parody” edition of the OJ Simpson murder case. As the Cat’s signature stove-piped hat is trademarked as well as the phrase “Cat in the Hat”, the direct copying of the cat used for Dr. Juice’s adaptation is in trademark violation. The trial proceedings break down four things they looked at involving the style of the “poetry” Dr. Juice used, the nature of the copyrighted work, the amount used, and the market affect for the copyrighted material. In all four cases, Katz and Wrinn were found to not be able to use the Fair Use doctrine to support their case. Dr. Seuss Enterprise had strong evidence to back up their charges Katz and Wrinn never really had a chance to win.

The entire premise of this case is laughable. The fact two adults thought they could market for profit an adaptation of a beloved and widely known children’s book to use to tell the tale of an extremely public double murder case uses remarkable ingenuity and stupidity. If Katz and Wrinn thought they could get away with using direct images in the first place they did not think their idea through. Also, Penguin publishing and Dove distributions should have looked into the idea more and seen the blatant copyright infringement and case battle to come.  The dark-comedy edge to one of the most famous court cases in the 1990’s probably would have done well had it not been for their lack of actual creativity in marketing their product.

 

United States. Court of Appeals. Ninth Circuit. Dr. Seuss Enterprises v. Penguin Books. N.p.: n.p., n.d. University of Missouri-Kansas City, 27 Mar. 1997. Web. 04 Mar. 2014. <http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/communications/Seuss.html>.

Shannon

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