n the dry corner of business law called trademark litigation, Fox v. Franken is an unusually lively document. Along with mundane accusations of unfair competition, the lawsuit includes some especially derisive remarks about the defendant, Al Franken, the political satirist.
The court papers were filed in State Supreme Court in Manhattan and became public yesterday. In the lawsuit, a judge is being asked to decide an important question: who has the right to use the word “fair” and the word “balanced” together, connected by the word “and”?
Lawyers for Fox News Network, part of Rupert Murdoch’s media empire, News Corporation, contend that Mr. Franken should not be allowed to use those words in the title of his new book due in stores next month, “Lies, and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right.”
They argue that Fox has trademarked “Fair and Balanced” to describe its news coverage and that Mr. Franken’s use of the phrase would “blur and tarnish” it.
“Franken is neither a journalist nor a television news personality,” according to the complaint. “He is not a well-respected voice in American politics; rather, he appears to be shrill and unstable. His views lack any serious depth or insight.”
Lawyers for Fox who filed the complaint also take issue with Mr. Franken’s book cover because it “mimics the look and style” of two books written by Bill O’Reilly, a prominent Fox News personality. Mr. O’Reilly is also pictured on the cover, just beneath the word “Lies.”
The court papers refer to Mr. Franken, who is a former “Saturday Night Live” writer and performer, as a “parasite” who hopes to use Fox’s reputation to confuse the public and boost sales of his book.
Mr. Franken is also accused of verbally attacking Mr. O’Reilly and other Fox personalities on at least two occasions, and of being “either intoxicated or deranged” as he flew into a rage at a press correspondents’ dinner in April 2003. Mr. Franken has not filed a response in court to the suit.