The 88th Annual Academy Awards, otherwise known as the Oscars, take places next Sunday, February 28th. This year’s Oscars have already been ripe with controversy, but the problems haven’t stopped yet. Earlier this week, the Academy sued Lash Fary, founder of Distinctive Assets, for trademark infringement in California federal court. Distinctive Assets is a marketing company that promotes products by placing them in the hands of celebrities (and then hoping that the celebs tweet or insta about how much they liked the product). In this case, the company has put together gift bags for Oscar attendees – particularly the acting and directing nominees. The problem: this year’s bags were promoted with slogans like “Everyone Wins at the Oscars®! Nominee Gift Bags!” causing more than a few people to assume that the bags were put together by the Academy itself. Now here to announce the winner for trademark infringement – the California federal court!

Trademark infringement is the unauthorized use of another’s trademark, and typically turns on whether the use is likely to cause consumer confusion. Seeing as how multiple media outlets, including Glamour magazine, The Telegraph, and Vanity Fair,  reported on the gift bags as if they were put together and given out by the Academy itself, it’s safe to say the Academy at least has a case here. The complaint alleges that Distinctive Assets “uses the Academy’s trademarks to raise the profile of its “gift bags” and falsely create the impression of association, affiliation, connection, sponsorship, and/or endorsement.” It includes in the complaint the previously mentioned slogan, as well as another tweet from Distinctive Assets that said “Everyone Wins Nominee Gift Bags in Honor of the Oscars®!”

The Academy’s legal counsel, according to the complaint, reached out to Distinctive Assets prior to filing the suit, requesting that Distinctive Assets confirm in writing that all future communications about the gift bags make it clear that they’re not associated with the Academy. When Distinctive Assets failed to respond or comply with the request, the Academy filed suit.

Danielle Dudding

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