And you thought 2018 was weird already.
You know Big Red. The lovable mascot of Western Kentucky University, who lives up to his name by being really big and really red. By all accounts, he’s one of a kind.
Except, he’s not.
JUST IN: Western Kentucky’s $200M+ lawsuit against Italian media company it says stole its mascot & turned him into the “Barney of Italy” is alive again after 15 years in the courts https://t.co/qCDkEWFRXY pic.twitter.com/Kn8bPYgzj5
— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) June 6, 2018
Mediaset, one of the largest media companies in Italy, has a mascot called Gabibbo. Gabibbo is a large, red “thing” that bears a striking resemblance to Big Red. And that hasn’t been lost on the university as well as Big Red’s creator, Ralph Carey. In fact, Western Kentucky and companies that own the school’s international merchandise licenses sued the Italian company back in 2003 for $250 million. They lost that case but refiled alongside Carey, who created the character in 1979. Now, according to ESPN, the highest court in Italy affirmed the merits of this plagiarism suit against Mediaset, which is controlled by the family of Silvio Berlusconi, the Donald Trump of Italy.
The key piece of the suit seems to be an incriminating newspaper article in which Antonio Ricci, who created Gabibbo, admitted to swiping the character design from WKU. Ricci’s exact quote is that Gabibbo was previously “a mascot for a basketball team in Kentucky.” Despite the color, we’re pretty sure he’s not talking about Cardinal Bird.
It’s been a long, strange, 15-year fight for Western Kentucky and its associates. After a court of appeals in Milan sided with the media company, citing that the characters didn’t look exactly alike, it seemed as though they might be done. However, the highest court in Italy noted that it doesn’t matter if the two mascots aren’t 100 percent alike because “plagiarism can also be evolutionary.”
Now, the case will now be refiled and head back to the Milan Court of Appeals. Hopefully, this case will be resolved soon and we can all get back to the more important question of trying to figure out what the hell Big Red is supposed to be.