Chubby Checker, also known as “The King of the Twist,” recently filed a lawsuit that could help prevent him from becoming known as The King of Inappropriate and Pointless Smartphone Apps.

The lawsuit was filed against Hewlett-Packard and its subsidiary, Palm, Inc., for $500 million, in light of an app called the Chubby Checker.  The purpose of the app was to estimate the size of a certain private part of the male anatomy based on the user’s shoe size.  In light of trying to promote his new single “Changes,” Checker does not want his name to be associated with such an obscene idea, especially without compensation or his authorization.

Checker’s lawyer, personal injury attorney Willie Gary, said that ”[t]his lawsuit is about preserving the integrity and legacy of a man who has spent years working hard at his musical craft and has earned the position of one of the greatest musical entertainers of all time.”

On its face, this seems like a legitimate lawsuit.  Why should such an iconic figure in music let his name be used for such a derogatory purpose?  But the most interesting part of the situation is the fact that the app was only downloaded 84 times over the course of about two years and was promptly removed back in September, which was the same month that Checker’s attorney sent a cease and desist letter asking Hewlett-Packard to take it down.  If the effort is to make sure that Checker’s name remains untarnished, it seems that letting this go and not filing suit would have been a better option, given the fact that knowledge of this app’s existence may have never spread farther than the companies who made it and the 84 users that downloaded it.  Now, whoever reads one of the articles or blogs reporting on this may never be able to say the name Chubby Checker again, or listen to “The Twist,” without at least smirking a little bit.

In addition to the seemingly illogic of the lawsuit, the massive $500 million that is sought doesn’t help eliminate the possibility that this lawsuit may be somewhat motivated by money, as one could easily argue that having your fake name (Checker’s real name is Ernest Evans) be associated with a seemingly unpopular smartphone app is worth $500 million.  But the fact still remains that if Checker didn’t file suit this issue could have been settled quietly, and this blog post may have been about something else entirely.  So, if you really want to keep something quiet, take a lesson from Mr. Checker and figure out how much not keeping it quiet is worth before you decide to go to court.

John Lomascolo

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One Response to Read This and Try to Say “Chubby Checker” Without Laughing

  1. Emily says:

    I think your analysis of this case is spot on–it probably didn’t need to be brought since the app was immediately removed upon a cease and desist letter. Certainly now more people will know about the association of the artist and the app. I would also be concerned that the standard for a tarnishment claim is extremely high and courts seem to disfavor finding tarnishment. But, as you have pointed out, if the point was to avoid tarnishing, Chubby Checker probably should have settled quietly.