Software Parody Is Toast After Court Ruling

From Bloomberg Business News

Berkeley Systems Inc. said a federal judge stopped Delrina Corp. from using the disputed “Flying Toaster” symbol in Delrina’s Opus ‘n Bill Screen Saver computer software.

Berkeley Systems said in a statement that U.S. District Judge Eugene F. Lynch ruled Berkeley Systems had a valid copyright on the symbol and issued a preliminary injunction against Delrina, a Toronto-based software developer. Berkeley Systems, a privately held designer of screen-saving software, filed suit against Delrina in late September alleging copyright and trademark infringement and unfair competition.

The judge found that Delrina’s “Death Toasters” and Berkeley Systems’ “Flying Toasters” are substantially similar, Berkeley Systems said. Delrina unsuccessfully argued that use of the symbol was protected because it was intended as a parody.

Delrina, which also makes fax communications software for Microsoft Corp.'s Windows-based systems, unveiled on Sept. 13 its Opus software, which is based on a comic strip by cartoonist Berkeley Breathed featuring Opus the Penguin and Bill the Cat. In one version of the software, Opus shoots at a flock of winged Flying Toasters.


“We don’t agree with (the ruling), but we’re going to abide by it,” Delrina spokesman Josef Zankowicz said Sunday.

Delrina in a few days will begin shipping a “censored version” of the software that features flying toasters powered by propellers instead of wings. The newfangled toaster is “very much like a helicopter,” Zankowicz said.