Lost in Translation

Western Kentucky University experienced a setback last month in its trademark infringement case against Mediaset, an Italian media conglomerate owned by former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

The imbroglio over Mediaset’s use of Gabibbo, a furry red blob that looks awfully similar to WKU’s Big Red, will continue bouncing in the Italian court system, since Western and two other plaintiffs involved in the international licensing of Big Red intend to appeal.

The story about the Italian judge’s ruling that appeared in Sunday’s Daily News mentioned that representatives for Mediaset and “Striscia La Notizia”, a satirical TV news program that employs Big Red doppelganger Gabibbo did not return e-mail requests seeking comment.

Well, I have heard back from “Striscia La Notizia”. I asked a representative from the show last week in an e-mail to comment on the judge’s ruling and assess whether the show or its representatives believed the ruling would stand up to an appeal by Western.

The show’s response, sent apparently from Gabibbo him/her/itself, arrived in my inbox late Friday afternoon and is printed below in its entirety:

Ciao
grazie per il messaggio che ci hai cortesemente inviato.

Tutte le lettere indirizzate a Striscia vengono lette con attenzione, ma il
loro enorme numero non ci consente di rispondere a ciascuno personalmente.

Se ci sarà possibile, ci metteremo in contatto con te. In ogni caso ti
ringraziamo per esserti rivolto a noi.

La Redazione di Striscia.

Those more fluent in Italian than myself (i.e., everyone else in the world) are welcome to translate this response for me.

If I were to take a stab at it, though, it would appear to be an automated reply thanking me for my question and then telling me that the show believes my message is important and that it will be sent to the appropriate person for consideration. That person, if possible, will then contact me with a timely response.

If anyone representing Mediaset or “Striscia La Notizia” (which I’ve heard from different sources translates into either “Stripping the News” or “The News is Sneakin”) contacts me, I will post that response on this blog.

In the meantime, I invite everyone to compare Gabibbo and Big Red in these YouTube clips:

First, Big Red, appearing in a 1997 ESPN SportsCenter commercial:

Now, Gabibbo, apparently appearing in a skit on “Striscia La Notizia” and speaking in an upper-register Cookie Monster-ish voice:

Intrepid, web-savvy wrestling fans should also scour YouTube for a roughly 2-minute clip of Gabibbo challenging WWE superstar Batista. It’s a cultural clash that, unlike the court case, does not turn out so well for Gabibbo and includes many more comical sound effects.

UPDATE: I received an e-mail Wednesday afternoon from Giorgio Mondini, the attorney representing Adfra, the Italian company handling the licensing of Big Red.

I asked Mondini for his thoughts on the ruling last week and here’s part of his response:

The ruling came totally unexpected and in our opinion is based on totally wrong grounds in fact and law.

I believe that it should be appealed before the Court of Bologna and in this regard I am waiting for final instructions from WKU.

I had also pointed out that a 2004 Daily News story about the case included thoughts from Mondini about the potential for Berlusconi to exert political pressure on the judge, thereby affect the ruling. When I asked Mondini if he felt such pressure may have been placed on the judge, putting her in a compromised position, Mondini said:

As to the excerpt taken from the Daily News mentioned by you,there may be several explanationsfor the reasons why the Judge decided that way, but of course
I am not in the position to confirm any of them.

I can only tell you that I am very confident about the outcome of the appeal and that this unfortunate decision will be finally
overturned.

At this point, I have still not heard from anybody representing the victorious Gabibbo.

It would be irresponsible on my part to speculate why no response has been forthcoming, so I will just leave it to you to imagine a dancing, giant red Italian blob celebrating the court victory by wearing a judge’s robe and banging an oversized gavel.

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