Sea-Monkey Spat Swims On in Federal Court

     MANHATTAN (CN) – A trademark dispute that a judge advanced Tuesday continues the strange odyssey of the children’s toy once marketed as the Amazing Sea-Monkeys.
     Sea-Monkeys, which are actually dried brine shrimp that animate into “live micro-crustaceans” when placed in water, were the most famous patent held by Harold “von” Braunhut, a mail-order marketer with a dark history.
     Born Harold Nathan Braunhut in 1926, the former Manhattanite replaced his middle name with the Germanic “von” to purge his Jewish heritage and reflect his neo-Nazi sympathies, according to an article from the Southern Poverty Law Center.
     In its briefing “Hitler and the Sea Monkeys,” the anti-discrimination group said von Braunhut bought firearms for the Ku Klux Klan, lit crosses for the Aryan Nations and used some of his children’s toy earnings to help a white supremacist fight sedition charges.
     When von Braunhut died in 2003, he reportedly left behind 195 patents. Some of his most remembered products amounted to little more than salesmanship and sleight of hand, such X-Ray Specs, Crazy Crabs (simply, hermit crabs) and Invisible Goldfish (a kit with a glass bowl, fish food, a handbook and nonexistent fish), according to article by The Awl.
     Transcience Corp., a company Von Braunhut left behind, came to be run by his widow, a former sexploitation-flick actress born Yolanda Signorelli.
     Singorelli’s credits listed on the Internet Movie Database include “File X for Sex: The Story of the Perverted,” “Death of a Nymphette” and “Venus in Furs,” named after the classic novel that originated the term masochism.
     As CEO of Transcience, Braunhut’s widow claims that the Nashville-based Big Time Toys is ripping off his most celebrated invention.
     According to her lawsuit, Transcience licensed Sea-Monkeys to Big Time Toys in 2007, in exchange for 10 percent royalties of gross sales and a “supplemental laboratory fee” of $750 per week for the maintenance of a “research facility.”
     Big Time Toys stopped making royalty and lab-fee payments five years later, the widow, who now uses her late husband’s name, says.
     Sam Harwell, the founder of Big Time Toys, hit back with in an affidavit asserting that von Braunhut’s Sea-Monkeys invention is as illusory as his invisible goldfish.
     “To my knowledge, there are seven recognized species of artemia brine shrimp,” Harwell wrote on April 28. “The hybrid species, ‘nyos’ (for ‘New York Ocean Science Laboratory,’ which no longer exists) claimed by plaintiffs is not one of them. It is artificial.” (Parentheses in original.)
     He contends that the actual species are “Artemis salina,” which are “found worldwide” and “a widely used food item.”
     U.S. District Judge Edgardo Ramos refused Tuesday to enjoin Big Time Toys from selling its own Sea-Monkeys, but he let Transcience and von Braunhut move ahead with copyright and trademark claims for the time being.
     Neither party’s attorneys immediately responded to a request for comment.

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