Jennifer Love Hewitt alleges she did not give permission to use her name and image in advertisements and spam e-mails for a weight loss product in a new suit filed in California state court.
According to the complaint, The Marz Group violated the right of publicity of the self-described “internationally acclaimed actress, producer, author, television director and singer-songwriter” when it included Hewitt’s photograph as part of a marketing campaign for Slim Spray, an oral vitamin spray the company touts as a weight loss supplement, energy booster, and sleep aid.
Hewitt alleged the defendant makes a concerted effort to exploit celebrities as part of its advertising, with “an entire section of defendant’s website…littered with photos of celebrities who were undoubtedly pushed to hold the product at red carpet events,” according to the complaint.
The inclusion of Hewitt in such marketing “degrades her invaluable ‘brand’ and public image, which causes devastating effects on her ability to enter into future deals to promote quality, upscale products,” she alleged. After learning about the photo, lawyers for Hewitt sent Marz a cease and desist letter.
Although the company responded that it would stop using Hewitt’s image, it featured her in a promotional e-mail just a few weeks later. The e-mail displayed “a prominent, front-and-center photo of Hewitt and included the caption: ‘AS SEEN WITH JENNIFER LOVE HEWITT.’”
The complaint noted that the defendant appeared on a June 2013 episode of the ABC show “Shark Tank” on which it sought to find investors for its business. Comments from the hosts and potential investors referred to the spray as “a scam” and “a hustle.” Hewitt also cited a blogger who referenced her photos when reviewing the TV episode. “The blogger implies that these celebrity ‘endorsements’ add credibility to the effectiveness of defendant’s product, despite it being labeled a scam on national television by a highly successful and well-known investor,” the complaint argued.
The suit seeks injunctive relief and trebled damages for violations of Hewitt’s common law and statutory rights of publicity.
To read the complaint in Hewitt v. The Marz Group, click here.
Why it matters: Hewitt’s suit indicates that advertisers run the risk of challenge when they use the names and/or likeness of celebrities without their permission. Hewitt’s case is but a recent example.