The Halloween Costume Case That Drove One Judge Bananas
By: Aaron H. Wallace, Esq.
The year was 2018. The moon was full. And a federal court judge found himself presiding over a dispute unlike any his courtroom had seen — one with stakes so high so they could rattle the Halloween hopes of youngsters across the land.
The question before him:
If, in nature, one banana is different from another, must too be the banana costumes manufactured by rival purveyors of Halloween costumery?
Or is the basic appearance of a banana so fundamentally common and universal that no costume capturing its likeness could possibly qualify for intellectual property protection?
Few on the bench have been called to consider questions so ripe for judicious deliberation, so fruitful in its potential to set precedent, so likely to split the public. But Judge Noel L. Hillman was far from yellow.
When costume maker Rasta Imposta claimed that the real “imposta” was its arch nemesis of autumn disguise — the Kangaroo Manufacturing company — the Honorable Judge Hillman was determined that his would not become a kangaroo court. Nay, justice would prevail… even if the trial itself had gone bananas from the start.
It’s a case that comes directly from the couldn’t-make-it-up-if-you-tried corner of American caselaw. The details of the trial, as chronicled in The New York Times, include an overripe banana produced as evidence, a reflection on the art of Andy Warhol, and an in-court argument about “whether the founding fathers had banana costumes in mind” when drafting the United States Constitution.
Best of all? It ended in what the Times called “a split decision”… including an injunction that Kangaroo said it would be— er— apeeling.
Wondering about other Halloweeny cases that have worked their way through American courtrooms over the years? Last year, we told you about a ghost story-turned-lawsuit in Orlando. FindLaw has three other examples that might get you in an All Hallows’ Eve state of mind. And if you check back at www.flmic.com next year, we’ll bring you even more tales of lawyerly encounters with the mysterious, ghoulish, and downright bone-tingling dimensions of American law.
Until then: Happy Halloween from all of us here at Florida Lawyers Mutual.
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