Articles Posted in Right of Publicity

Showgirl-I-300x111Fort Wayne, Indiana – Apparently, the Plaintiffs in this case, Jessica Burciaga, Jessica Hinton, Jamie Eason Middleton, Lucy Pinder, Abigail Ratchford, Emily Scott, Denise Trlica, and Sara Underwood, are professional models. The Plaintiffs claim B&S Fort Wayne, Inc., Showgirl III, Inc. and Reba Enterprises LLC (collectively “Defendants”) doing business as Showgirl I and Showgirl III, have used their images and likeness to promote their strip clubs without permission of the Plaintiffs.

According to the Complaint, the Defendants’ use of the Plaintiffs’ pictures in connection with their strip clubs violates the Plaintiffs’ rights and violates the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1125(a), for false endorsement, unfair competition, and/or false advertising. Further, the Plaintiffs allege the Defendants have violated their right of publicity pursuant to Ind. Code § 32-36-1-0.2 et seq. Finally, the Plaintiffs claim the Defendants have been unjustly enriched by promoting their businesses using the Plaintiffs’ images and likeness.

At least two of the Plaintiffs in this case, Hinton and Pinder, are involved in a similar lawsuit in the Southern District of Indiana.

Continue reading

FantasyGentlemensClub-300x184Hammond, Indiana – Cora Skinner and Tiffany Toth Gray, the Plaintiffs, claim to be professional models residing in California. According to the Complaint, a model’s reputation impacts the commercial value associated with their image or likeness to promote a product or service. Further, the Plaintiffs assert they each have “the right to control the commercial exploitation of their name, image, likeness, and advertising ideas.”

Apparently, Sahara, Inc. d/b/a Fantasy (the “Club”), the Defendant, operates a strip club in Hammond, Indiana. The Plaintiffs claim the Club used their images to promote its business without permission or compensation. As such, the Plaintiffs are seeking compensation for false endorsement, unfair competition, and false advertising pursuant to 15 U.S.C. § 1125.

Plaintiffs further claim the Defendant violated their right of publicity under Ind. Code § 32-36-1-0.2 et seq. Finally, Plaintiffs claim the Defendant was unjustly enriched by misappropriated the images of the Plaintiffs to promote the Club.

Continue reading

DancersShowclub-LogoIndianapolis, Indiana – According to the Complaint, Plaintiffs, Jennifer Archuletta, Gemma Lee Farrell, Jesse Golden, Hillary Hepner, Jessa Hinton, Joanna Krupa, Gia McCool, Alana Campos Souza, Irina Voronina, and Lucy Pinder, are all professional models. Apparently, M E R Corporation d/b/a Dancers Showclub (“Showclub”), the Defendant, is a strip club located in Indianapolis, Indiana.

The Plaintiffs claim Showclub misappropriated the Plaintiffs’ photos, images, and likenesses in advertising materials to promote Showclub on social media without their consent or a license. By using the Plaintiffs’ photos, Plaintiffs claim Showclub falsely indicated the parties are associated and that the Plaintiffs endorse Showclub. Therefore, Plaintiffs are seeking damages for false endorsement, unfair competition, and/or false advertising in violation of the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1125(a)(1), violations of the Plaintiffs’ right of publicity pursuant to I.C. § 32-36-1, et seq., and unjust enrichment.

Continue reading

Indianapolis, Indiana – Attorneys for Plaintiff, Dean Potter LLC (“Potter LLC”), an Indiana limited liability company, filed suit in the Southern District of Indiana alleging that Defendants, LG Electronics USA, Inc. (“LG”), a Delaware corporation, and DOES 1 – 10, infringed its intellectual property rights, including the right of publicity. Potter LLC is seeking injunctive relief, judgment including statutory damages, and attorneys’ fees.

According to the Complaint, Potter LLC “is the exclusive owner of the name, likeness, image, right of publicity and endorsement, trademarks,Potter-BlogPhoto-300x240 and other intellectual property rights of the late Dean Potter.” Potter LLC claims Mr. Potter was a well-known extreme sports athlete who was featured in National Geographic for his stunts including highlining, BASE jumping, and rock climbing. Mr. Potter was allegedly featured traversing a highline in the short film entitled Moonwalk, that was shot in 2011 and published by 2012. It is alleged that no one else has recreated Mr. Potter’s performance in Moonwalk and that Potter LLC is the owner of Mr. Potter’s right of publicity and common law trademark rights in the film.

Potter LLC alleges Defendants utilized footage from Moonwalk in which Mr. Potter was traversing the highline in its commercial entitled “Listen. Think. Answer.” (the “Commercial”). According to the Complaint, LG is a multi-billion dollar corporation that has previously protected and enforced its intellectual property rights, meaning it is aware of the need to obtain a license for using Mr. Potter’s right of publicity and or likeness or commercial purposes. However, Potter LLC claims it was not approached by Defendants regarding a license for the Commercial and it never authorized Defendants to use Mr. Potter’s likeness. Potter LLC further claims Mr. Potter, during his life, “rejected the corporate, commercial, and competitive worlds that sought to profit from his art without understanding it”.

Continue reading

In the Opinion written by Justice David, the Indiana Supreme Court concluded Indiana’s right of publicity statute contains an exception for material of newsworthy value that includes online fantasy sports operators’ use of college players’ likenesses for contests.

The matter of Akeem Daniels, Cameron Stingily, and Nicholas Stoner vs. DraftKings, Inc. and FanDuel, Inc. wasFanduel-BlogPhoto-300x69 initiated as a class action complaint in Marion County alleging that the Defendants were promoting and operating their online fantasy sports contests using the Plaintiff’s names and likenesses without their consent and thus violated their right of publicity under Indiana law. The DraftKings-PhotoDefendants removed the case to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana and moved to dismiss. The District Court dismissed the case and the Plaintiffs appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, which certified a question of Indiana law to the Indiana Supreme Court.

The certified question from the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals asked, “[w]hether online fantasy-sports operators that condition entry on payment, and distribute cash prizes, need the consent of players whose names, pictures, and statistics are used in the contests, in advertising the contests, or both.” All the Plaintiffs were collegiate student-athletes at different times from 2014-2016. Their statistics, names, and images were used by Defendants in their fantasy sports competitions to allow consumers to build their ideal fantasy team within a capped salary based on artificial prices for each player. The player’s performance translated to a point value determined by Defendants and consumers accumulated these points to become eligible to win cash prizes.

BPPicture12292014.png

Indianapolis, Indiana – An Indiana trademark attorney for Bettie Page, LLC of Indianapolis, Indiana (“BPL”) sued in the Southern District of Indiana alleging that Vibes Base Enterprises, Inc. of El Monte, California (“Vibes Base”) committed unfair competition under federal, California and Indiana common law. BPL has asked the court for the cancellation of a federal trademark registration belonging to Vibes Base.

BLP claims that it is the exclusive owner of the name, likeness, voice, right of publicity and endorsement, worldwide trademarks, copyrights and other intellectual property related to the late model Bettie Page. Among its intellectual property holdings are trademark registrations for BETTIE PAGE, trademark numbers 2,868,613 and 2,868,614 which have been registered by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Vibes Base develops, manufactures and markets lines of apparel products and accessories under various brand names, including “Bette Paige.” In May 1999, Sand K. Inc. obtained federal trademark registration number 2,244,182 for the mark BETTE PAIGE for women’s clothing. Sand assigned that mark to Vibes Base in 2011.

In March 2014, BPL filed a federal trademark application for the BETTIE PAGE trademark for “computerized on-line retail store services in the field of clothing…” and similar uses. The USPTO refused registration of this trademark on the grounds that a likelihood of confusion existed between BETTIE PAGE, for which Plaintiff had applied, and the trademark BETTE PAIGE, which had previously been registered.

Plaintiff contends that the registration and/or use of the BETTE PAIGE trademark is an illegal use of the Page intellectual property, including the right of publicity.

In this complaint, filed by an Indiana trademark lawyer, the following counts are asserted:

• Count I: Unfair Competition Under 15 U.S.C. §1125(A)
• Count II: Unfair Competition Under Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code §17200 et seq.
• Count III: Common Law Unfair Competition
• Count IV: Unjust Enrichment
• Count V: Right of Publicity Infringement Under Cal. Civ. Code §3344.1
• Count VI: Request for Declaratory Judgment of No Trademark Infringement
• Count VII: Declaration that Defendant’s Registration is Invalid (Non Compliance with 15 U.S.C. §1052(c))
• Count VIII: Declaration that Defendant’s Registration is Invalid (False Designation of Origin, Sponsorship or Endorsement)

BPL asks the court to cancel Vibes Base’s BETTE PAIGE trademark; for an award of actual damages; for treble damages for willful and/or intentional use of an unauthorized trademark; for an award of attorneys’ fees and expenses; to order Vibes Base to destroy or surrender to BPL all unauthorized products, including all products that Vibes Base is able to recall; and, in the alternative, to declare that BPL’s trademark, as contained in its trademark application, is not confusingly similar to the BETTE PAIGE trademark.

Continue reading

HMPicture.png

Indianapolis, Indiana – Indiana trademark attorneys for Hoosier Momma, LLC (“Hoosier Momma”) of Brownsburg, Indiana sued Erin Edds (“Edds”) of Marion County, Indiana in the Southern District of Indiana. In this Indiana litigation, Hoosier Momma accuses Edds of violations of the federal Lanham Act, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and Indiana’s Uniform Trade Secret Act, as well as computer tampering, misappropriation and attempted misappropriation of trade secrets, breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duties, tortious interference with business relationships, and conversion. Among its allegations, Hoosier Momma contends that Edds tarnished its “Hoosier Momma” trademark as well as its “Betty Design” trademark, U.S. Trademark Registration Nos. 4584165 and 4584167, which have been registered with the U.S. Trademark Office.

In 2010, Kimberly Cranfill (“Cranfill”), Catherine Hill and Edds formed Hoosier Momma. They are the sole members of Hoosier Momma, which is in the business of developing and selling vegan, gluten-free products that are sold in more than 600 restaurants, stores and hotels in at least six states.

Hoosier Momma alleges multiple wrongs by Edds, including making damaging false statements, engaging in conduct that conduct negatively affects Hoosier Momma’s reputation and sales of its products, tarnishing its trademarks, and changing passwords to Hoosier Momma’s social media accounts without authorization, refusing to relinquish control of the accounts and continuing to post to those accounts.

Edds is also accused of accessing Cranfill’s e-mail account to obtain confidential information as well as sharing confidential information with Wilks & Wilson, a competitor of Hoosier Momma. Hoosier Momma also contends that Edds contacted Tone Products, Inc. (“Tone,”) a direct competitor of Hoosier Momma’s packer, and asked that Tone reverse engineer a Hoosier Momma product to allow Tone to determine the confidential recipe of such product, a trade secret of Hoosier Momma, and provide it to Edds for her personal use and/or a use that jeopardized the disclosure of Hoosier Momma’s trade secrets. Hoosier Momma also claims that Edds improperly contacted several of Hoosier Momma’s distributors, clients, manufacturers and other business partners.

Further, Edds allegedly attempted to sell her interest in Hoosier Momma without the consent purportedly required under the Hoosier Momma operating agreement. Finally, Hoosier Momma contends that Edds sold and traded Hoosier Momma product and improperly retained the proceeds.

In its Indiana trademark complaint, filed by trademark lawyers for Hoosier Momma, the following is claimed:

  • Count I: Violation of the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1051, et seq.
  • Count II: Violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, 18 U.S.C. § 1030, et seq.
  • Count III: Computer Tampering
  • Count IV: Misappropriation and Attempted Misappropriation of Trade Secrets and Violation of Indiana Uniform Trade Secret Act
  • Count V: Breach of Contract
  • Count VI: Breach of Fiduciary Duties
  • Count VII: Tortious Interference with Business Relationships
  • Count VIII: Conversion
  • Count XI [sic]: Unjust Enrichment

Hoosier Momma asks for injunctive relief; compensatory and exemplary damages; costs; expenses; and attorneys’ fees.

Continue reading

Indianapolis, Indiana – Illinois and Missouri trademark attorneys for James Dean, Inc. of James_Dean_in_Rebel_Without_a_Cause.jpgIndiana sued in Indiana state court alleging that Twitter, Inc. of California infringed the trademark James Dean, which has been issued by the U.S. Trademark Office by allowing the registration of the Twitter handle @JamesDean. The case was removed from the Superior Court of the County of Hamilton, Indiana to the Southern District of Indiana.

Plaintiff James Dean, Inc. filed a trademark complaint against Twitter, as well as the fictitious persons, John Doe Defendants 1-5 Company, in an Indiana state court. In the complaint, Plaintiff alleged that it is the exclusive owner of the name, likeness, voice, right of publicity and endorsement, worldwide trademarks, copyrights, and other intellectual property including but not limited to visual and aural depictions, artifacts, memorabilia, and life-story rights, and/or trade dress of the late movie star James Dean.

James Dean, Inc. further alleges that Twitter has allowed the registration and operation of a Twitter account, using the handle @JamesDean, located at https://twitter.com/JamesDean, which is purportedly in violation of Plaintiff’s rights.

In the complaint, filed by an Indiana trademark lawyer, James Dean, Inc. asserted nine causes of action against Twitter:

• Count I – Trademark Infringement Under Section 32(1) or 3(A) of the Lanham Act;
• Count II – False Endorsement Under Lanham Act § 43(A);
• Count III – Indiana State Statutory Right of Publicity;
• Count IV – Common Law Right of Publicity;
• Count V – Common Law Unfair Competition;
• Count VI – Unjust Enrichment;
• Count VII – Conversion;
• Count VIII – Deception; and
• Count IX – Indiana Crime Victims’ Act.

For relief, James Dean, Inc. sought damages, including treble damages, costs, and attorney’s fees as set out in the Indiana Right of Publicity Statute, Lanham Act and other statutes. In addition, Plaintiff seeks injunctive relief.

Twitter removed the action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 (federal-question jurisdiction) and 28 U.S.C. § 1332 (diversity-of-citizenship jurisdiction). To support the former basis for federal jurisdiction, Twitter noted federal questions inherent in the filing of a claim under the Lanham Act. Twitter also claimed supplemental jurisdiction for the remaining claims under Indiana law.

To support the latter basis for jurisdiction in an Indiana federal court, Twitter asserted that the two prongs for diversity-of-citizenship jurisdiction were met. First, James Dean, Inc. is a citizen of Indiana, as it has alleged that it is incorporated under the laws of the State of Indiana with its principal place of business in Indiana, while Twitter claims to be a citizen of two states: Delaware and California. Second, while Twitter “strongly contests liability and does not believe Plaintiff is entitled to any relief whatsoever,” it indicated that, were liability to be found, the amount in controversy could exceed $75,000, given that James Dean, Inc. is suing for “all damages” allowed by the applicable statutes, which can include actual damages, treble damages, punitive damages, statutory damages and attorneys’ fees.

Practice Tip:

James Dean was born on February 8, 1931, in Marion, Indiana. He grew up in Fairmount, Indiana, about 60 miles northeast of Indianapolis. Dean starred in East of Eden, Rebel Without a Cause and Giant, receiving two Academy Award nominations for Best Actor.

In 1955, Dean died in an automobile accident. As a result of the nearly 60 years that have passed since his death, it is unlikely that those who follow @JamesDean believe that the tweets have been written by James Dean himself. Nonetheless, celebrity licensing agency CMG Worldwide, based out of Carmel, Indiana, is attempting to recover the James Dean Twitter account.

CMG, which also represents such celebrity images as Marilyn Monroe, Jackie Robinson and Babe Ruth, has attempted “on numerous occasions” to make Twitter take action to block and identify owners of various unauthorized accounts. Those accounts could give the impression, it says, that the users have permission from the estates of the celebrities or CMG and “result in immeasurable and irreparable damage.”

Finally, most of the James Dean trademarks that were registered by the U.S. Trademark Office have been either abandoned or cancelled. It will be interesting to see to what degree this fact influences the court, should liability be established and a calculation of damages be appropriate.

Continue reading

Indianapolis, Indiana – An Indiana trademark attorney for Swag Merchandising, Inc. and DEVO-picture2.jpgDevo Inc., both of California, sued in Hamilton Superior Court alleging that Your Fantasy Warehouse, Inc. d/b/a T.V. Store Online and Fred Hajjar, both of Commerce Township, Michigan, infringed Devo’s Trademarks, Registration Nos. 3161662 and 3167516, which have been registered by the U.S. Trademark Office. The case has been removed from Indiana state court to the Southern District of Indiana.

Swag claims that it owns the exclusive right to license the various trademarks, copyrights and individual and collective rights of publicity of the musical group Devo. The group is best known for the song “Whip It,” which hit number 14 on the Billboard chart in 1980. Swag indicates that it licenses the Devo intellectual property to third parties around the globe.

T.V. Store Online is in the business of manufacturing, marketing and distributing apparel and memorabilia featuring classic and current television programming, movies and/or music. T.V. Store Online and Hajjar have been accused of manufacturing, producing, marketing, advertising and/or retailing a product known as “Energy Dome Hats.” Plaintiffs assert that these Energy Dome Hats are commonly associated with Devo but have not been licensed by Plaintiffs to Defendants. Plaintiffs further claim that consumers coming into contact with Defendants’ product would “immediately recognize the same as being associated with, sponsored by and/or endorsed by” the ’80s group.

In the complaint, filed by an Indiana trademark attorney, Plaintiffs assert the following:

• I: Violation of 15 U.S.C. §1125(a) of the Lanham Act
• II: Trademark Infringement – 15 U.S.C. §1114 and Common Law
• III: Counterfeiting
• IV: Dilution – 15 U.S.C. §1125(c) and New York General Business Law §360-1
• V: Common Law Unfair Competition
• VI: Statutory Right of Publicity [NB: under Indiana law]
• VII: Right of Publicity Infringement Under California Civil Code §3344
• VIII: Common Law Right of Publicity
• IX: Conversion [NB: under Indiana law]
• X: Deception [NB: under Indiana law]
• XI: Indiana Crime Victims Act

Plaintiffs ask for an injunction; the surrender of infringing materials; damages, including treble damages; costs and fees. An Indiana intellectual property lawyer for Defendants removed the case to federal court, although he noted that the removal was not a concession that the Southern District of Indiana was the proper venue for the California Plaintiffs or the Michigan Defendants.

Practice Tip:

This is at least the third case filed by Theodore Minch about which we have blogged. In at least two prior cases, LeeWay Media Group, LLC v. Laurence Joachim et al. and Leon Isaac Kennedy v. GoDaddy et al., Mr. Minch has filed in an Indiana court despite none of the parties having any connection to Indiana.

It can be surmised that perhaps the choice of Indiana as a forum might have been driven by an attempt to increase damages. I.C. §§ 35-43-4-3 and 35-43-5-3(a)(6) are criminal statutes, claimed in the complaint in conjunction with an attempt to parlay the accusation into an award for damages, costs and attorneys’ fees. The Indiana Court of Appeals has discussed “theft” and “conversion” as they pertain to takings of intellectual property in several recent cases (see, for example, here and here) and has made it clear that criminal statutes often apply differently to an unlawful taking of intellectual property.

Continue reading

Oakland, California District Judge Claudia Wilkin (pictured) issued a new order regarding in re NCAA Student-Athlete Name & Likeness Licensing Litigation, a putative class action involving theJudgewilkin.jpg Indianapolis-based National Collegiate Athletic Association (“NCAA”). The NCAA’s motion to dismiss on, inter alia, copyright and First-Amendment grounds was denied.

In this action, Plaintiffs, a group of twenty-five current and former college athletes who played for NCAA men’s football or basketball teams between 1953 and the present, pursued a putative class action against Defendant NCAA. They initially brought claims against Collegiate Licensing Company (“CLC”) and Electronic Arts Inc. (“EA”) as well, but agreed to settle those claims before this order was issued.

At the time of this order, four of the Plaintiffs (the “Right-of-Publicity Plaintiffs”) alleged that the NCAA misappropriated their names, images and likenesses in violation of their statutory and common law rights of publicity. In contrast, the other twenty-one Plaintiffs (the “Antitrust Plaintiffs”) alleged that the NCAA violated federal antitrust law by conspiring with EA and CLC to restrain competition in the market for the commercial use of their names, images and likenesses. This order addressed only the latter set of claims, which arise under the Sherman Antitrust Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1 et seq.

To be eligible to compete, the NCAA required student athletes to release in perpetuity all rights to the commercial use of their images. The Antitrust Plaintiffs contend that the “purposefully misleading” release forms then allowed the NCAA to sell or license the athletes’ identities to others.

In addition to the release that the athletes had signed, a price-fixing conspiracy/group boycott prevented the athletes from being able to pursue compensation for the licensing of their identities even after they stopped competing. This allegedly interfered with their ability to market “group licensing rights” for their identities in game broadcasts, rebroadcasts and video games. Because many of these Plaintiffs also went on to play professionally, such rights could be of considerable value.

Intellectual property attorneys for the NCAA argued that assertions of a right of publicity of student athletes in the context of game broadcasts were barred by the First Amendment as well as California statute. The court was not persuaded by either argument. On the First Amendment argument, the court held that, while the original broadcast might enjoy protection, “subsequent unauthorized reproductions” did not.

Likewise, the California statute cited by the intellectual property lawyers for the NCAA was not persuasive to the court. That statute provided that the athletes had no right of publicity in the “use of [his or her] name, voice, signature, photograph, or likeness in connection with any news, public affairs, or sports broadcast or account.” However, the court held that such right-of-publicity restrictions did not apply to licensing in other states that lacked similar statutes.

The court also rejected the NCAA’s copyright-preemption argument on two grounds. First, this was not properly considered under the law of copyright. The athletes were not asserting intellectual property rights under copyright law but rather sought to license their personas. As a persona cannot be copyrighted, copyright preemption did not apply. Moreover, the Plaintiffs’ claims were not of simple theft of intellectual property. They also asserted a broader antitrust right – to prevent injury to competition. Citing United States v. Microsoft Corp., 253 F.3d 34, 63 (D.C. Cir. 2001), the court stated, “[I]ntellectual property rights do not confer a privilege to violate the antitrust laws” and denied the NCAA’s motion to dismiss.

Practice Tip: The NCAA has been heard before on claims under the Sherman Act. NCAA v. Board of Regents, 468 U.S. 85 (1984). In that decision, the Court acknowledged that the NCAA must be given some leeway to adopt anticompetitive rules violating the Sherman Act, concluding that intercollegiate athletics is “an industry in which horizontal restraints on competition are essential if the product is to be available at all.”

Continue reading

Contact Information