The following is a list of lawsuits over the famed character Barney and his show over the years.
Barney's I Love You Song (1994)
In 1992, Lee Bernstein contacted the Lyons Partnership (the company that owns Barney) after she heard her song "I Love You" being used on the Barney & Friends TV series. Both Bernstein and Lyons made an agreement where Lee Bernstein would get credited and royalties for the rights to the song in all future Barney materials. Then 2 years later in 1994, Warren Publishing, the publisher of "Piggyback Songs", filed a lawsuit and sued Lee Bernstein, Lyons Partnership (The company that owns Barney), Time-Life Inc (The company that released most of Season 1 of Barney on VHS through a mail order service), EMI Records (The company that released Barney's Favorites Vol. 1 in 1993) and J.C. Penney Co (the company and store which had the Barney items at the time) for copyright infringement over the rights and lyrics to the "I Love You" song. The 3 major projects at the time, Barney Live! In New York City, Barney's Imagination Island and the album Barney's Favorites Vol. 2 couldn't use the song, because of the lawsuit going on. In December of 1994 when the PBS Special Barney Celebrates Children was aired, "I Love You" was finally sung for the first time in a while, after Warren Publishing and Lyons finally made a settlement.
Barney v. Ganz (1996)
In early 1993, Ganz approached Lyons about becoming the Canadian mass-market distributor for Barney and Baby Bop plush. A contract dispute between Ganz, a Canadian toy distributor, which had obtained the right to distribute Barney and Baby Bop "plush" toys in Canada from Lyons, a United States limited partnership, which owned the intellectual property rights to these products. There was some agreement but there was no final, written contract to which the parties affixed their signatures exists. A "final" draft distribution agreement, to which Lyons now points as the contract, was never signed by either of them. This was taken to court to a jury between August 8 and 19, 1996, in Dallas, Texas. Ganz claimed a breach of contract resulting from Lyons' alleged delay in shipping the products, as well as Lyons' alleged failure in using its "best efforts" in protecting the Canadian toy market from infringements. While Lyons had counterclaimed that Ganz had failed to take delivery of and pay for 204,000 plush toys on which it was obligated under the parties' agreement. The jury returned its verdict on August 20, 1996. It found that Lyons had breached its agreement with Ganz because of delays in delivery of the toys under the March purchase order. It awarded Ganz damages in the amount of $2,255,935 for this breach. The jury also found for Ganz on its failure to protect the market claim and awarded $1,565,333 in damages. Finally, the jury found against Lyons on its counterclaim.
Barney v. San Diego Chicken (1997)
In the same year when Warren Publishing sued Lyons Partnership for using the I Love You song, comedy sketches of The San Diego Chicken during professional sporting events began to include scenes of the Chicken beating up a dinosaur character. Lyons Partnership began sending letters to Ted Giannoulas, who portrays the Chicken, demanding that he stop the alleged violation of Lyons' rights on the Barney character.
These threats did not stop the mock battles between the Chicken and Barney. On 8 October 1997, Lyons filed lawsuit in Fort Worth, Texas federal district court against Giannoulas, claiming copyright and trademark infringement and further claiming that such performances would confuse children. In his case, Giannoulas cited that the purple dino was a "symbol of what is wrong with our society--an homage, if you will, to all the inane, banal platitudes that we readily accept and thrust unthinkingly upon our children", that his qualities are "insipid and corny", and that he also explains that, in an article posted in a 1997 issue of The New Yorker, he argues that at least some perceive Barney as a "pot-bellied," "sloppily fat" dinosaur who "giggle[s] compulsively in a tone of unequaled feeble-mindedness" and "jiggles his lumpish body like an overripe eggplant." This court agreed with Giannoulas, and ruled against Lyons on 29 July 1998, declaring the sketches to be a parody that did not infringe on the rights of the character that Lyons created.
Lyons appealed this ruling to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, but again lost their case to Giannoulas on 7 July 1999.
Lyons Partnership v. Morris Costumes Incorporated (1999)
Lyons Partnership originally sued Morris Costumes and owners Philip Morris and Amy Morris Smith in 1997, accusing the costume company of renting and selling Barney-like purple animal costumes with names such as "Duffy the Dragon", "Purple Dino" and "Hillary the Hippo". Lyons also sought an injunction preventing Morris Costumes from renting or selling the costumes, as well as $300,000 for what it called willful infringement. U.S. District Judge Graham Mullen ruled that the "Duffy the Dragon" costume didn’t infringe on Barney’s copyright, but the other two did. However, he ruled that Morris Costumes didn’t infringe willfully, so Lyons couldn’t collect damages.
Mack Sperling, Lyon's lawyer, had argued during the trial that the image of Barney, star of a children’s TV show and inspiration behind countless toys, could be harmed if someone used a look-alike costume to hurt or scare a child.
Barney v. EFF (2001)
The Electronic Frontier Foundation hosted online archives from the Computer Underground Digest that contained Barney parody material. In 2001, Gibney, Anthony & Flaherty, LLP, lawyers for Lyons Partnership, issued a threat letter to EFF claiming infringement of the Barney character. EFF strongly defended itself against these claims citing the established defence of parody, backed by United States First Amendment protections.
As of November 29, 2006, the EFF successfully defended an anti-Barney website from a lawsuit. An article in British publication The Register applauded the victory.
Barney v. CyberCheeze (2001)
Around 2001, Olympia, Washington-based comedy website CyberCheeze posted a work entitled "150 Ways to Kill the Purple Dinosaur". Lyons threatened legal action in response, and CyberCheeze replied on their site that the threat was "about as intellectual as the purple quivering mass of gyrating goo you call Barney, but that it also is demeaning to everyone that visits our website and reads this worthless attempt and scare tactic".