CLINT EASTWOOD SUES FRAUDSTERS FOR USING HIS NAME AND IMAGE TO PROMOTE CBD PRODUCTS
On July 22, 2020, Clint Eastwood filed suit in California federal court seeking “damages in the millions of dollars” from three companies that manufacture, distribute, and sell cannabidiol (“CBD”) products. According to the complaint, the defendants completely fabricated a Clint Eastwood interview and an on-line article in order to promote and sell CBD products.
In fact, Eastwood had no experience with or connection to the defendants, their products, or any CBD products at all. The fraudulent on-line article used a headline containing Eastwood’s name together with a famous Eastwood photograph. The fake interview then falsely touted health claims about CBD allegedly made by Eastwood, and his alleged ownership of the companies and products.
In addition to the fraudulent interview and article, the defendants promoted search results and spammed would-be consumers with emails containing a link to the article. On the webpage hosting the article, visitors could purchase the defendants’ products, thus enabling the fraudsters to illegally profit from the misuse of Eastwood’s name, likeness, and false association with their products.
Eastwood’s claims include violations of California’s statutory right of publicity (California Civil Code § 3344), violations of the common law right of publicity, trademark infringement under the federal Lanham Act (15 U.S.C. § 1125(a)), and common law trademark infringement.
This case follows several high profile cases brought by Kim Kardashian, Ariana Grande, Sandra Bullock, Ellen DeGeneres, Michael Jordan, Tom Waits, and others for the use of their names and likenesses to promote commercial activities – without their consent.
While the Eastwood matter presents a brazen example of the unlawful practices that some businesses will use to sell their products, more subtle commercial activities can still result in significant liability for the improper use of celebrity names and images.
The Eastwood case should serve as a reminder to companies that may consider using the name or likeness of celebrities or any other individuals to promote their products, that any such usage requires express advanced permission from such individuals.
SLG has extensive experience advising clients in rights of publicity, trademark, and other intellectual property matters. We would be happy to assist your company navigate the possible pitfalls presented by these and other issues. For more information, please contact SLG at firstname.lastname@example.org.