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Divorces in the entertainment industry are increasingly developing into unusual intellectual property battles.
The latest is a lawsuit filed on Wednesday by Audrey Dunham, a fitness model who in 2012 married ventriloquist, producer and stand-up comedian Jeff Dunham. Before the marriage, she had the maiden name of Audrey Murdick, while Jeff was married to another woman named Paige Dunham.
Jeff and Paige divorced in 2010, but the latter — an executive producer on the 2013 film The Face of Love — has held on to the Dunham name. While it’s not uncommon for a woman to keep a surname post-marriage, some of Paige’s digital endeavors are now being challenged in a California federal court.
Specifically, Audrey Dunham is suing Paige Dunham for registering AudreyDunham.com, AudreyDunham.net, AudreyDunham.us and AudreyDunham.biz.
“Defendant knew at the time she registered the Accused Domains, that Plaintiff would soon change her name to AUDREY DUNHAM,” states the lawsuit.
The new Mrs. Jeff Dunham says that on January 31, 2012 (after the engagement, but before the marriage), she filed for a trademark registration on “Audrey Dunham” for personal fitness training services and consultancy. The examining attorney at the Trademark Office is said to have determined that the mark was distinctive and protectable.
According to the lawsuit, Audrey asked Paige to transfer the websites, and the response was a demand for tens of thousands of dollars for each domain name. Audrey is now asserting a cause of action of cyberpiracy prevention, with alleged damages up to $100,000 per domain name, plus a claim for unfair competition. For allegedly using her name in bad faith, Audrey wants to restrain Paige from cybersquatting and unfairly competing with her. The plaintiff is represented by attorney Willmore Holbrow.
THR has attempted to contact Paige’s reps for a response.
In the meantime, Paige’s profile page on IMDb says she’s an advocate for divorced women and counsels people going through breakups. She also is described as playing a role in Jeff Dunham’s career. The two were married from 1994 to 2010. Paige apparently managed and created Jeff Dunham merchandise and introduced an online store. And if that’s not enough on the topic of identity, Face of Love, starring Annette Bening and Ed Harris, is about a widow who falls for a man who bears a striking resemblance to her late husband.
The new lawsuit comes on the heels of a settlement between the rock band Van Halen and the drummer’s ex-wife Kelly Van Halen over use of the surname on designer merchandise.