George Clooney and Julia Roberts Sue For Unauthorized Use of Their Names and Images

Celebrities can be extremely sensitive about the use of their names and likenesses without permission. Not only do celebrities receive a great deal of money from endorsements, but many celebrities are careful to control their public persona and may not wish to be associated with certain types of goods or services. Two of Hollywood's hottest stars, George Clooney and Julia Roberts recently teamed up to sue two audio/visual technology companies, Digital Projection, Inc. and Beyond Audio Inc. in California state court, for misuse of their names and images to sell expensive movie projectors and entertainment systems.

The lawsuit alleges that the Defendants used the stars' photographs, identities, personas, publicity rights, privacy rights, trademarks, and trade dress in advertisements without permission. Specifically, Clooney and Roberts allege that the Defendants prominently used large photographs of them in their advertising, marketing, and promotions, including print advertisements published in numerous magazines in the months preceding the complaint, without authorization. The complaint alleges that the advertisements were displayed at the homepage of www.BeyondAudio.com and at multiple pages within www.DigitalProjection.com, in Defendants' printed brochures, newsletters and e-mail blasts distributed to their customers and prospective customers, as well as within Defendants' large video displays at major international trade shows.

The complaint alleges Misappropriation of the Right of Privacy/Right of Publicity; Trademark Infringement/Trade Dress Infringement/False Association under the Lanham Act; and negligence. The actors seek an injunction, damages and attorneys' fees.

George Clooney and Julia Roberts are not the only celebrities who are actively policing the use of their names and likenesses. Recently Hilary Swank filed a lawsuit against Robert's Home Audio and Video for allegedly using pictures of her from her film Million Dollar Baby in their ads without permission. Like Clooney and Roberts, Swank is suing in California state court for violation of her right of publicity.

A celebrity's name and likeness can be one of his or her biggest assets. It is therefore important for companies to clear the use of a celebrity's name or likeness when promoting or advertising its goods or services. Using a celebrity's name or likeness without consent could result in a costly legal battle.

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