Massachusetts strip club owners beware – an IP firm is scouring advertising that falsely suggests that models are appearing at, or otherwise sponsoring, local establishments. The five cases here include These suits, which include more than thirty different plaintiffs (some of whom appear in several cases) follow the Mitcheson suit earlier this month, and include counts for false advertising and false association, rights of privacy and publicity, statutory unauthorized use of an individual’s name, portrait or picture, conversion, unjust enrichment, quantum meruit and negligence.
A number of models, including first-named plaintiff Dessie Mitcheson, sued Springfield’s Aquarius Nightclub and its owner for false advertising and false association under the Lanham Act, as well as common law and statutory right of privacy, common law right of publicity and statutory unauthorized use of an individual’s name, portrait or picture in connection with the nightclub’s alleged use of photographs of the models in their advertising and promotional material. The models, who model for magazines such as Maxim, Stuff, Playboy and Glamour and appear in music videos, advertisements, assert that their being falsely associated with Aquarius, a strip club, injures their professional reputations and was done without their knowledge or consent and without payment. In addition to the above claims, the plaintiffs bring counts for conversion, unjust enrichment, quantum meruit and negligence.
Mass. Mutual sued Chuck Yeager, his wife, PMN II and III (partnerships involving the Yeagers – the name allegedly stands for “Protect My Name”), and a corporation and foundation owned and run by the Yeagers, seeking a declaration that Mass. Mutual has not violated Yeager’s rights of publicity, rights of privacy, trademark rights in the Chuck Yeager mark, and a determination of which defendant owns the rights in Yeager’s name. According to the complaint, Victoria Yeager has demanded that Mass. Mutual make payment for alleged violations of Yeager’s right of publicity. Her claim is based on an article written by a Mass. Mutual employee and published by BenefitsPRO, a trade journal, that made one use of Yeager’s name in an analogy likening the breakthrough of increased sales of group life insurance to the breaking of the sound barrier. After Victoria Yeager complained, Yeager’s name was removed from the article; Mrs. Yeager, who is Chuck Yeager’s legal guardian following his being deemed incompetent, persisted in demanding payment. Mass. Mutual asserts that Victoria Yeager was deemed to be a vexatious litigant by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California for repeated frivolous right of publicity filings. Specific personal jurisdiction over the defendants is alleged to exist through the defendants’ repeated contacts with Mass. Mutual in connection with Yeager’s publicity rights as well as through the defendants’ operation of a “highly interactive” website, www.chuckyeager.com, that is available in Massachusetts and through a gofundme page alleged to have been set up by the defendants to create a Chuck Yeager documentary.