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Kim Kardashian West is no stranger to making headlines, but about seven years ago the headlines themselves were stranger than usual thanks to a “vampire facial” the reality star turned entrepreneur underwent while filming Kourtney and Kim Take Miami.
Last year, Kardashian West divulged that she regretted the procedure and likely would have backed out if she hadn’t been filming the show because she recently learned she was pregnant and couldn’t use any pain mitigating products — and now she’s suing because her name and image are being used to sell the service without her permission.
Kardashian West on Monday sued an Alabama doctor for using her likeness to promote a similar procedure. In the complaint filed in California federal court, she alleges Charles Runels has been using her name, face — and even an Instagram pic (see below) — to boost his licensing business.
Tonight on Kourtney & Kim Take Miami!!! #VampireFacial #kktm
A post shared by Kim Kardashian West (@kimkardashian) on
Runels promotes himself as the “orgasm doctor” and “Calvin Klein of medicine,” according to the complaint, and spends most of his time “touting the various cosmetic procedures he has purported to trademark.” One of those is the Vampire Facial, and the complaint alleges that in late 2017 he was charging more than 650 medical providers nearly $200,000 per month to license the name of that and other procedures.
This summer, Kardashian West discovered that Runels had plastered her famous family’s surname on the front of a brochure for the procedure and also on his website.
“Just below a post disclaiming any association with the Vampire Facial provider from which patients had contracted HIV is a photo captioned, ‘Bar [Refaeli] & Kim Receive the Vampire Facial® Procedure,'” writes attorney Michael Kump in the complaint.
“Runels’ scheme to misappropriate Ms. Kardashian’s hard-earned popularity without her permission is so pervasive that she features prominently in, of all places, his LinkedIn profile,” writes Kump. “Quite literally, on his profile page, her photo is twice as large as his.”
Kump says when his client contacted Runels with a cease and desist, he not only refused, but also demanded that she pay him.
Kardashian West’s claims include copyright and trademark infringement, false association and violation of the right of publicity. She’s seeking unspecified statutory and punitive damages, plus disgorgement of profits and an injunction barring Runels from using her face, name or persona in any way. (Read the full complaint below.)
Runels on Tuesday morning sent The Hollywood Reporter a comment in which he called the lawsuit a shakedown, and he also published a blog post about the complaint. Runels maintains that he didn’t ask Kardashian West to endorse the Vampire Facial and alleges that she used his trademarked name without payment first. “She makes profit on getting attention and she used my names to get attention without asking and without paying,” writes Runels to THR. “Would the photos and the show have gained as much views without my name?”
“I will win in court against her,” he continues. “It’s like the quarter back who has sex with the ugly girl, then wants to deny. She endorsed my procedures without my asking. Now she wants everyone to keep it a secret. She’s a public figure, she made it news, it’s legal to curate the news.”
5:40 a.m.: Updated with a statement from Runels.
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