Still reeling from its legal battle with competitor MGA Entertainment, actress Donna Douglas filed a lawsuit against Mattel Inc for allegedly creating a Barbie doll that looks like her and is illegally using her name to promote and sell their new “Elly May” Barbie.
Douglas played the role of Elly May Clampett in the 1960s TV series “The Beverly Hillbillies,” a comedy series that keep its fans laughing for its nine seasons as well as in its reruns. The lawsuit claims that Douglas still appears in public in association with her “Elly May” character. Mattell launched its “Elly May” doll in December 2010 and is even using the name of Douglas in their promotional materials.
According to the actress, she never gave her endorsement to the doll as well as her permission to use her name or likeness. The case states that Mattel is creating a wrong public impression that Douglas endorsed the doll. Philip Shaheen, the actress’ Baton Rouge-based attorney did not return phone messages regarding his comments. Mattel, on the other hand, issued an e-mail saying that they secured licenses for the rights to Beverly Hillbillies for their “Elly May” doll using the proper channels.
According to New Orleans Entertainment lawyer Greg Eveline, said that while he is not aware of the provisions of Douglas contract with the producers of “Beverly Hillbillies,” she may have a legitimate claim. Other celebrities have won similar high profile cases based on the Trademark Act of 1946. This law prohibits the illegal use of an image or likeness to make it seem like the person is endorsing the product.
He cited the example of Tom Waits and Bette Midler who won lawsuits violating the Trademark Act of 1946. Waits filed a case against Frito-Lay in 1992 while Midler sued Ford Motor in 1998. Both companies asked the singer to record a song for a commercial and when they refused, the companies hired the services of a sound-alike performer.
The case Douglas filed against Mattel seeks to stop the company from using her name or likeness. She is also seeking minimum damages worth $75,000. CBS Television Distribution, the company that acquired the rights to “The Beverly Hillbillies” in the 1980s, could not be reached for comment.
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