Court Awards Marley Estate $2.6 Million on Lanham Act False Endorsement Claim (January 2013)

The rights holders for Bob Marley, Fifty Six Hope Road Music, Ltd., commenced an action in the United States District Court in Nevada against A.V.E.L.A, Inc., an entity that purported to license to third parties, the right to utilize photographic images of Marley on a variety of Products. The suit also named several of A.V.E.L.A.’s licensees. A.V.E.L.A had entered into a deal with a photographer who owned certain copyrighted images of Marley and, without any authorization from Hope Road, A.V.E.L.A. then issued licenses to third parties to utilize the photographic images on a variety of products, including t-shirts, bobble head dolls, towels and headphones.

After extensive summary judgment motions on Hope Road’s claims alleging trademark infringement and violation of the Nevada statutory rights of publicity, Hope Road was left to proceed to trial on claims alleging false endorsement under the Lanham Act and state law claims of interference with advantageous business relationships. The case was tried to a jury over twelve (12) trial days with the jury finding that A.V.E.L.A. and its licensees use of Marley’s images without Hope Road’s consent constituted false endorsement and confused and misled the public that Hope Road had authorized and/or sponsored the Defendants’ products when they had not and further found that all of the Defendants’ actions constituted willful infringement. The jury awarded Hope Road $300,000.00 against A.V.E.L.A. on its interference with advantageous business relationship claim. The Court had reserved to itself the issue of damages on the false endorsement claim.

Following briefing, the Court entered an order in favor of Hope Road in the amount of $781,427.83 representing the disgorgement of all profits from the Defendants on the false endorsement claim and further awarded Hope Road the sum of $1,518,687.94 in attorneys’ fees against A.V.E.L.A., adopting the jury’s finding of willfulness as warranting the imposition of an award of attorneys’ fees. With the award of attorneys’ fees, the recovery against all defendants totaled $2,600,115.60, plus interest. The matter is presently on appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

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