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Elvis Presley Enterprises Sues Italian Gun Maker
April 20, 2014
Elvis Presley Enterprises, the corporate entity created to manage the entertainer's image and likeness, is suing the maker of Beretta firearms for falsely suggesting that Presley has endorsed its latest signature firearm. The false advertising and right of publicity lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court for Western District of Tennessee.
The complaint alleges that Beretta introduced the model 692 shotgun for clay shooting and used advertising “intended to suggest that the gun’s status ultimately would be equivalent to Elvis’ legendary status as an entertainer.” Plaintiff contends that while Elvis was an avid gun aficionado who once even owned a Beretta firearm, that does not give the gun maker the right to use Presley's image in an advertising campaign.
The model 692 was introduced at popular gun trade shows in Las Vegas and other cities. As part of the Elvis-themed advertising campaign, Beretta advertised that Elvis was coming to these events." Elvis showed up in the form of impersonators who posed with the weapons at the shows. Also central to the lawsuit are posters that "feature an image of a performer appearing to be Elvis facing an audience wearing a jumpsuit in the style typically associated with Elvis with a shooting vest and ear protectors on so as to associate Beretta's products with Elvis." The posters do not, however, mention Elvis' name or use an actual image of Elvis.
Under the Tennessee Right of Publicity Statute, "Likeness" means the use of an image of an individual for commercial purposes, while "Photograph" means any photograph or photographic reproduction, still or moving, or any videotape or live television transmission, of any individual, so that the individual is readily identifiable. Will these definitions prove to be problematic for the Plaintiff? It's hard to imagine that the King won't get the benefit of the doubt in a court sitting in Memphis.