Some brands you just don't copy - not ever. Elvis Presley "the Brand" is one of those. Ubiquitous, well-known, and very valuable, the unlicensed copying of Elvis is like robbing Fort Knox - it's very bold.
Recently, Elvis Presley Enterprises filed a copyright/trademark action accusing a video distributor of wilfully engaging in infringing activity consisting of the manufacture, distribution, marketing, promotion and sale of a CD/DVD box set entitled, Elvis 77 - The Final Curtain.
The complaint is an interesting read as much for the infringement's clandestine nature as for the restrictive grip Elvis Presley Enterprises maintains on a 1977 TV program referred to as, "Elvis in Concert" or "the CBS Special."
According to the complaint, the video distributor offered and distributed a copy of Elvis' third and final TV special (the CBS Special), which has never been released in its entirety. Plaintiffs have long guarded against releasing the CBS Special, asserting that:
Because of the severity of Elvis' health problems at the time the special was shot, Elvis was far from his best in the way he looked and the way he performed .... There just simply is no way to get it [the footage] only to the real fans (and we've exhausted all kinds of ideas) without also having Elvis served up to the general public and press for ridicule. They already emphasize and exaggerate the tragedy and sadness of the last years of his life too much.
Prior to distribution, the video distributor allegedly sent out an email, the subject of which was "Press Release: Boxcar 'Elvis 77' New Trailer" and which contained the following admonition in bold:
"PLEASE KEEP THIS E-MAIL STRICTLY BETWEEN US, AND DO NOT FORWARD IT TO ANYONE. THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT IF YOU WISH TO SEE THIS BECOME A REALITY."
Elvis Presley Enterprises sued the video distributor, Bud Glass Productions, in the Northern District of Florida, accusing the distributor of trademark infringement, trademark counterfeiting, trademark dilution, copyright infringement, unfair competition, and false endorsement/false designation of origin.
View or download the entire complaint filed in Elvis Presley Enterprises, et al. vs. Bud Glass Productions, et al., 4:11-cv-00050 (N.D. Fla. 02/02/11)
For a broader understanding of this case, see:
Elvis Presley Enters. v. Passport Video, 357 F.3d 896 (9th Cir. Cal. 2004)
Elvis Presley Enters. v. Capece, 141 F.3d 188 (5th Cir. Tex. 1998)
Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc. v. Elvisly Yours, Inc., 936 F.2d 889 (6th Cir. Tenn. 1991)
Estate of Presley v. Russen, 513 F. Supp. 1339 (D.N.J. 1981)
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