Talk show host and cannabis mogul Montel Williams recently filed suit against multiple medical marijuana retailers under the Lanham Act and Florida state law for trademark infringement, false advertising, violations of the right to publicity and right to privacy, and unfair business practices. Williams markets a line of medical-grade cannabidiol, or CBD, oils for use by patients suffering from a variety of chronic diseases. Forbes magazine recently interviewed Williams about his CBD products, in which he promoted his brand of potent oils and denounced subpar cannabis products as ineffective.
Williams’ lawsuit claims that since the Forbes article’s publication, many medical marijuana retailers have been using his likeness to propagate fake advertisements and news stories that endorse other cannabis products. These false advertisements are “capitalizing on [Williams’] valuable reputation and intellectual property to lure consumers into ordering their Infringing Products on the false premise that they have been tested, created, or recommended by Williams, when they have not,” the complaint alleges. The named defendants have not yet responded to the suit.
Takeaway: Simply because a celebrity mentions an advertiser’s product or service in news articles or talk shows does not give the advertiser the right to align their product with the celebrity – talent agreements and releases with celebrities are still required.