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Old 11-19-2019, 09:10 PM
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How much control does a person (especially a public figure) have over his/her name?


I know that a person's name or likeness cannot be used in advertising without consent. A person has a right not to be seen as endorsing a product or business unless he/she wishes to endorse the product or business.

But what about this scenario:

Suppose a town in Indiana is really enamored of Mike Pence. Interstate 69 runs through the town and they would like to name it Mike Pence Expressway. Cool, right?

Naturally, there are businesses along the Pence Expressway. Suppose a guy opens up a bar. He calls it Peter's on Pence. Of course, it's a gay bar. Can the real life Mike Pence object to the use of the word "Pence" in the name of a gay bar? Can the owner of the bar say that "Pence" refers to the business's location, not to the former governor and current Vice President.

This thought process began while I was in El Paso, Texas. There is a part of town in which many of the streets are named for golfers. Some of the golfers are alive today, some are not. Some of the streets are minor neighborhood roads and others are major thoroughfares. Along the major streets, some businesses use the name of the street in their names. What if a business is not of the sort that the real-life, living golfer would not approve? What if the business were a golf pro shop not associated with the golfer who lends his name to the street? Could the use of the golfer's name imply an endorsement of the pro shop where no such relationship exists?
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Old 11-20-2019, 05:59 PM
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Pretty sure that Pence has no legal recourse in the scenario you described as far as defamation goes. In fact, even if owner wanted to name it something like "Vice President Mike Pence's Favorite Gay Bar", he'd probably be legally in the clear. In fact, he might even be more in the clear if the name was obviously absurd.

Hustler V. Fallwell is probably relevant here.

Because Pence is a public figure, and because the bar's name would not be taken as a serious indication of endorsement by Pence, it's parody/opinion. No reasonable person would assume that Mike Pence approved of this gay bar, so it's not defamatory.

The golf example is different, since a reasonable person might believe that, for example, Jack Nicklaus had actually endorsed a shop called Nicklaus Golf Supplies, or whatever. Could also be trademark issues, since many golf pros license their names for products. If you use the trademark without approval, big bucks.
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Old 11-20-2019, 06:48 PM
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Originally Posted by iamthewalrus(:3= View Post
Could also be trademark issues, since many golf pros license their names for products. If you use the trademark without approval, big bucks.
Personality rights are a kind of grey area, but they most closely resemble trademark. It's mostly left up to the states (but see the Lanham Act), and California and (perhaps surprisingly) Tennessee have pretty strict regulations.
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Old 11-20-2019, 08:28 PM
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Originally Posted by iamthewalrus(:3= View Post
Pretty sure that Pence has no legal recourse in the scenario you described as far as defamation goes. In fact, even if owner wanted to name it something like "Vice President Mike Pence's Favorite Gay Bar", he'd probably be legally in the clear. In fact, he might even be more in the clear if the name was obviously absurd.

Hustler V. Fallwell is probably relevant here.

Because Pence is a public figure, and because the bar's name would not be taken as a serious indication of endorsement by Pence, it's parody/opinion. No reasonable person would assume that Mike Pence approved of this gay bar, so it's not defamatory.

The golf example is different, since a reasonable person might believe that, for example, Jack Nicklaus had actually endorsed a shop called Nicklaus Golf Supplies, or whatever. Could also be trademark issues, since many golf pros license their names for products. If you use the trademark without approval, big bucks.

But that's just it. The "Nicklaus" in Nicklaus Golf Supplies refers not to the actual man but to the street on which the business is located.
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Old 11-20-2019, 08:41 PM
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But that's just it. The "Nicklaus" in Nicklaus Golf Supplies refers not to the actual man but to the street on which the business is located.
Good luck opening a "McDonald Avenue Drive-Thru Burgers" on McDonald Avenue.
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Old 11-20-2019, 08:44 PM
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But that's just it. The "Nicklaus" in Nicklaus Golf Supplies refers not to the actual man but to the street on which the business is located.
Then that's the argument you make in court. Bring a checkbook for the lawyers.
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Old 11-20-2019, 08:45 PM
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But that's just it. The "Nicklaus" in Nicklaus Golf Supplies refers not to the actual man but to the street on which the business is located.
The only factual answer is that it would be up to a court to decide. Depends on a lot of things. What the full street name is, what the full business name is, where and when this all happens.
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Old 11-20-2019, 09:01 PM
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Remember actress/model Farrah Fawcett? Here's a somewhat relevant news story from 1977.

Ferrous Faucets
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Old 11-20-2019, 10:11 PM
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Good luck opening a "McDonald Avenue Drive-Thru Burgers" on McDonald Avenue.
This McDonald Ave is the classic part of town. Ain't no burgers around there.
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Old 11-21-2019, 11:30 AM
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Indiana has one of the strongest personality laws of any state. It says that no one can use a person's name for commercial purposes without consent.
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Old 11-21-2019, 01:01 PM
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But that's just it. The "Nicklaus" in Nicklaus Golf Supplies refers not to the actual man but to the street on which the business is located.
The relevant standard for a trademark (and likely similar for personality) is whether use
Quote:
Originally Posted by US Patent and Trademark Office
likely to cause confusion in the minds of consumers about the source or sponsorship of the goods or services offered under the parties' marks.
cite.

Having a plausible explanation for why the store is named after the street doesn't matter. Would the average consumer be confused? Almost certainly.
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Old 11-21-2019, 02:53 PM
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Personality rights are a kind of grey area, but they most closely resemble trademark. It's mostly left up to the states (but see the Lanham Act), and California and (perhaps surprisingly) Tennessee have pretty strict regulations.
Why "perhaps surprisingly?" w/o going off forum...
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Old 11-21-2019, 04:22 PM
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Why "perhaps surprisingly?" w/o going off forum...
When I think about personality rights, I first think about celebrities. When I think about celebrities, I first think about LA or NYC, not Nashville or Graceland.
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Old 11-21-2019, 04:54 PM
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When I think about celebrities, I first think about LA or NYC, not Nashville or Graceland.
The Elvis Presley estate was fundamental in getting legislation enacted that covers this. The estate was nearly worthless until Priscilla Presley filed enough lawsuits and got legislation passed that ended up establishing the pattern across the US.

https://www.natlawreview.com/article...nd-lawyers-and
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Old 11-21-2019, 05:27 PM
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The most similar case I can think of is Elvis Presley Enterprises v. Capece.

In short, a nightclub called The Velvet Elvis opened in Houston. It was themed around the obsession with pointless things so popular in the 70s, such as lava lamps and black velvet paintings. They even obtained a service mark.

The Elvis people didn't like it, not one bit, so they sued.

The court mostly sided with the nightclub, finding that there was no trademark infringement, no dilution or tarnishment, and that the Texas rights of publicity were not violated. So there was no monetary judgment, but the nightclub had to change its advertising so that the name Elvis was not prominent and no graphics of Elvis were used.

So naming something after Elvis would have been a no no, but naming it after a velvet Elvis was fine (in those particular circumstances).
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