I got very interested in the Pillow Pet phenomenon after reading the recent case in which the popularizer successfully sued a copier. On eBay, I was able to find a number of highly similar ladybugs, and ordered several for use in class. Many were listed as "original" and there was one kind that was "as seen on TV," which are now risky strategies; however, most–even most of the ones claiming to be "original"–also clearly disclosed in the item descriptions that they were not the My Pillow Pet advertised on TV. As they began to arrive, my children immediately demanded to appropriate them–and were happy to distinguish between a Pillow Chum ("authentic") and a Sleeping Friendz ("original"); in one case I received a Sleeping Friendz that had been described on the site as an Animallow, presumably on the theory that one off-brand copy is the same as any other. This discussion among various customers and a vendor or two expresses a wide range of reactions to such copying–from claims that this is out-and-out theft to arguments that what kids want is a pillow that turns into a stuffed animal and that brand fetishism is not good for children. For what it's worth, "pillow pet" seems highly descriptive if not generic to me, though the closeness of the copying in many cases does seem to me to support copyright claims if not TM claims, unless there's some earlier ladybug on which all of these are based.
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