On October 12, 2012, Hollywood celebrities George Clooney and Julia Roberts filed suit in the Atlanta Division against Digital Projection, Inc. ("DPI"), a seller of projectors and related items based in Kennesaw, Georgia.  Additionally sued are fictitiously-named "John Doe" defendants 1 through 20.[1] 

Mr. Clooney and Ms. Roberts claim that, without their permission, DPI and the other defendants "prominently used large photographs of Plaintiffs in Defendants' advertising, marketing, and promotions," including print advertisements, web pages, and video displays shown at trade shows.  “As such,” the complaint further alleges, “Defendants have infringed upon Plaintiffs’ Rights, and have intruded upon Plaintiffs’ privacy rights to be left alone and to control the use of Plaintiffs’ images, identities and personas in connection with commercial advertisements, including the right to refuse to appear in them.”

The complaint recites causes of action for violation of right of privacy under Georgia law, violation of Georgia’s Uniform Deceptive Trade Practices Act (O.C.G.A § 10-1-370 et seq.), unfair competition under O.C.G.A. § 23-2-55, false designation of origin under § 43(a) of the Lanham Act, and negligence.  Plaintiffs seek injunctive relief, compensatory damages, “profits received by Defendants as a result of the unauthorized use of Plaintiffs’ images,” and punitive damages.

Regarding the first cause of action, a federal court in Georgia recently stated: “[R]ight of publicity claims under state law are uniquely grounded in an individual's right to privacy and/or an individual's property right to control third-party use of their persona.”[2]  “Notably, the Eleventh Circuit has permitted such state law claims to proceed simultaneously with claims under the Lanham Act for trademark infringement.”[3]

The case is George Clooney and Julia Moder, professionally known as Julia Roberts v. Digital Projection, Inc. and Does 1-20, No. 1:12-cv-3569-JEC, filed 10/12/12 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, Atlanta Division.  The case has been assigned to Chief U.S. District Judge Julie E. Carnes.