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*Something’s Fishy as Toy Bass Makers Compete at European Conference

BARCELONA, Spain — Two competing companies, one from the United States and one from Germany, both are claiming responsibility for the highly successful singing and dancing plastic mounted fish.

The controversy emerged during the Table-Top Exposition at the Electronic Retailing Association’s European conference at the Hotel Arts this week.

At one end of the room was Telebrands Inc., Fairfield, NJ, which has had the No. 1 short-form DRTV spot in the United States for seven weeks, according to the standard infomercial ratings company, Jordan Whitney Inc.

The Boogie Bass spot, produced for Telebrands by DRTV veteran Anthony Sullivan, has surprised everyone by scoring a hit with a product that to many seemed risky. But, spurred on by Father’s Day and summer fishing trips, the plastic mounted fish — which sings and vibrates back and forth when someone walks in front of it — has sold “exceedingly well,” said Raj Shahani, director of international sales at Telebrands.

The Boogie Bass began on DRTV in the United States and recently moved into retail. Shahani was in Barcelona to try and take the product on the same routes in Europe.

At the other end of the Table-Top Exposition was German manufacturer Profi Produkte with its singing, dancing fish, Big Mouth Billy Bass, which is selling “fantastically” at retail in the United States and Europe, said Horst Heinz, manager. Big Mouth Billy Bass was here to find an international producer to take the product onto DRTV in the United States and Europe. Profi Produkte is mainly a toy maker but saw the potential of taking the product onto DRTV after watching Telebrands score a major hit.

The two companies seemed to have missed seeing each other until halfway through the exposition, when Shahani walked over to the table and tried to look over the German version of his U.S. DRTV hit.

“He has been trying to get a copy of our product to look over, but we don’t want him to have one,” said Heinz’s daughter, who declined to be named for this story. “We are right now pursuing some lawyers, and we will file an injunction against them. We are the original. This is our product, and we have a patent.”

Shahani, who seemed unfazed by the accusation, said only, “We are No. 1 in the United States for so many weeks, and we took everyone by surprise. People in this business always have their own story to tell. What else can I say?”

The products have some key differences, which may later be meaningful if a lawsuit is filed: They sing different songs; they are mounted differently; the Telebrands version automatically turns on with the help of a motion detector, while the Profi Produkte version must be switched on and off. The only remaining difference: Expect a special Christmas version with an accompanying CD or cassette to hit U.S. retail this holiday season, brought to you by Profi Produkte.

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