7:00am PT by Eriq Gardner
'Office Space' Actor Sues Over Publisher's 'Book of Flair'
In Office Space, the 1999 Fox film written and directed by Mike Judge, a restaurant named Chotchkie's is featured where workers are required to wear at least 15 pieces of "flair," or round buttons pinned to the uniform. In the movie, the characters despise this forced attempt at self-expression -- "You know, the Nazis had pieces of flair that they made the Jews wear," remarks the film's protagonist.
But thanks to the film's enduring cult, "flair" has become fashionable in a sort of ironic way. Or so one book publisher hoped.
Now, Todd Duffey, who portrayed the minor character of "Chotchkie's Waiter" in Office Space, is suing over one of the oddest pieces of merchandise tie-ins ever -- something called the Office Space Box of Flair, from Perseus, which includes a 32-page book and 15 "flair" buttons.
Office Space taught us that one can get in trouble for wearing too little flair; This lawsuit goes the other route.
The problem with the Office Space Box of Flair, according to Duffey's lawsuit being filed today in New York, is that Duffey's face appears on both the book's cover and one of the "flair" buttons.
Duffey says that Perseus had no right to his image, even if it came to a licensing agreement with 20th Century Fox.
In 1998, the actor signed a "Theatrical Motion Picture Day Player Employment Agreement," and as alleged in Duffey's complaint, "The Agreement was silent as to the Producer's right to use the Plaintiff's photograph for purposes of producing consumer merchandise related to the Film."
It's hard to blame the producer for such an oversight. Who knew that such a small facet of a film on office life -- the buttons that chain restaurant workers are made to wear -- would prompt its own book one day? When the movie starring Jennifer Aniston and Ron Livingston came out, it barely grossed over $10 million.
Nevertheless, merchandising has some legal traps. Duffey isn't overjoyed by this "flair" in the marketplace and is calling out the publisher for a violation of the Lanham Act.
According to the lawsuit, "The Defendants' use of the Plaintiffs' photograph is likely to cause confusion, mistake or deception as to: (i) the affiliation, connection, or association of the Plaintiff to the Defendants; and/or (ii) as to the origin, sponsorship, or approval of the Defendants' goods, services or commercial activities by the Plaintiff."
He's demanding a permanent injunction, an award of actual damages, attorney's fees and destruction of the allegedly illegal flair. His attorney is Randall Newman, who previously represented the the actor who played the bully in A Christmas Story, who sued over a Christmas Story board game. That lawsuit recently settled.
Perseus Book Group couldn't be reached for comment.
E-mail: [email protected]; Twitter: @eriqgardner