1:01pm PT by Matthew Belloni
George Clooney, Julia Roberts Sue to Enforce Intellectual Property Rights (Exclusive)
Two of Hollywood's biggest stars have joined forces on a new project: suing to protect intellectual property rights associated with their names and images.
George Clooney and Julia Roberts (suing as Julia Moder, her married name) have filed suit against Digital Projection, Inc. and Beyond Audio, two audio-visual companies that are accused of using pictures of the two stars and their trademarked names to hawk high-end movie projectors and entertainment systems. Beyond Audio appears to operate mostly in Canada and Digital Audio is based in Georgia.
"Defendants prominently used large photographs of Plaintiffs in Defendants' advertising, marketing and promotions including print advertisements published in numerous magazines over the past several months," states the complaint, which was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court and obtained by THR. The suit claims that unauthorized photos of Clooney and Roberts were used on the homepage of the companies' websites, as well as in print brochures, newsletters and email alerts. "Accordingly, Defendants are liable to Plaintiffs for the infringement of their publicity rights, privacy rights, and trademark rights."
A call to Digital Projection and an email to Beyond Audio were not immediately returned.
Suits over rights of publicity are becoming more common, especially as the value of celebrities' names and images have skyrocketed as quickly as the number of outlets attempting to capitalize on them. It's a bit unusual that Clooney and Roberts have joined forces to sue together, hoewever. The two superstars don't share a transactional lawyer (Clooney is with the Lichter Grossman firm, Roberts has been with Barry Hirsch at his firm for decades). But they are friends, suggesting they decided to make a statement by suing together.
Clooney and Roberts are seeking unspecified compensatory damages, as well as treble damages, punitive damages, attorneys fees and an injunction against further use of their names or images in conjunction with the two companies.
The suit, filed April 27 by Charles Harder of Wolf Rifkin Shapiro Schulman & Rabkin in Los Angeles, alleges causes of action for missapropriation of publicity rights, trademark infringement and negligence.