If you’re in the Los Angeles CBD business, it’s important to avoid playing fast-and-loose with celebrity endorsements and/or likenesses. Sure, there are many celebrities who are vocal fans of cannabis and CBD products, and some even have their own brands. But as our Los Angeles CBD business attorneys can explain, false assertions of big-name support have led to multi-million-dollar payouts in a number of recent cases. If you do have the green light from a prominent figure to use their name and likeness to promote your product, it is imperative that you get it all clearly in writing – to protect your company, your employees, and your assets.
While a good many of these faux celebrity endorsement have come from scammers, a few have involved actual CBD companies.
Among the recent instances of celebrities publicly denouncing use of their likeness or phony endorsements for CBD products:
- Tom Brady. The pro-footballer has flatly denied his purported endorsement of CBD and keto gummies, as depicted in a number of approved Facebook ads – some of them sexually-explicit and clearly scams.
- Phil McGraw. The name and likeness of “Dr. Phil” was used by a scam website that led users to believe they were on the Fox News website, where there was an ad indicating his endorsement of CBD gummies. One article even stated McGraw and Brady were teaming up in their endorsement of CBD gummies. They had not.
- Dolly Parton. The 77-year-old country music singer/songwriter issued a statement saying that, contrary to circulated claims on various social media ads, she had never been associated with or endorsed any keto oils or CBD product.
- Keanu Reeves. “The Matrix” actor was compelled to release a statement last year clarifying that he had never endorsed any CBD gummy or CBD oil product, and had never been interviewed by any CBD company for its website.
Two recent cases that have led to litigation involved include “Jeopardy!” host Mayim Bialik and actor Clint Eastwood (and the company that owns the right to his likeness).
Bialik’s lawsuit lists 32 unnamed companies (identified by the IP addresses, mostly situated in the Dominican Republic, France, and India), and alleges they’re illegally using her likeness to promote fake CBD oil and CBD gummies. Bialik says she’s never endorsed the product, never given permission for her name/image to be used, and has never been compensated for its use by these operators.
Eastwood, meanwhile, has had two substantial successes on the legal front for illegal use of his likeness to sell CBD products. Both cases were initially filed in federal court in Los Angeles against three CBD manufacturers and marketers. The nonagenarian’s image was reportedly featured in online articles falsely claiming that he endorsed these products.
One of the companies, based in Lithuania, was ordered in 2021 to pay $6.1 million for unauthorized use of Eastwood’s name and likeness, as well as attorney’s fees. An injunction was imposed to block future use of his name and likeness for their products.
Then last year, Eastwood was awarded $2 million in a lawsuit against another CBD retailer and a Florida-based internet marketing service that purportedly used his name and image without permission to promote its products in an online magazine. That page contained an article his name and made-up quotes that indicated his support for CBD in general and the defendant’s products in particular.
Eastwood said he’s never endorsed cannabis, and in fact has only ever agreed to one endorsement in his whole career: A 2012 Super Bowl TV ad highlighting the nation’s economic gains since the previous recession.
Bottom line: Don’t make the mistake of thinking A-listers won’t notice if you swipe their likeness for online sales. It’s a high-risk move that could cost your company dearly. If you are seeking an endorsement of some kind from a celebrity, go through the proper channels, ensure they’re fairly compensated, and have your Los Angeles cannabis company attorney review your contract.
The Los Angeles CANNABIS LAW Group represents growers, dispensaries, ancillary companies, patients, doctors and those facing marijuana charges. Call us at 714-937-2050.
Clint Eastwood Wins $6.1 Million CBD Lawsuit, Oct. 3, 2021, by Sarah Bahr, The New York Times
More Blog Entries:
Breakdown of U.S. Rules for CBD Cosmetics by L.A. Cannabis Business Lawyer, April 16, 2023, Los Angeles CBD Lawyer Blog