Monday, September 27, 2010

UPDATE: Paris Hilton Gets More Than a Card from Hallmark in Privacy Lawsuit

Mug shot of Paris Hilton.Image via WikipediaHotel heiress, reality tv star, and sometime drug bustee Paris Hilton has settled her misappropriation of publicity (invasion of privacy) lawsuit with Hallmark Cards, pending court approval.

As first reported by The Hollywood Reporter (, the parties reached a settlement, the terms of which were not disclosed pursuant to a confidentiality agreement, regarding the dispute, which involved a greeting card that featured a photo of Hilton's head [not the South Carolina resort] on a cartoon body. (See "TUOL" post 9/2/2009).  Hilton sued the Kansas City, Mo.-based greeting card giant in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California in 2007 (Case No. 2:07-cv-05818) alleging the privacy claim, along with trademark infringement and false designation under the Lanham Act.  Hallmark counter-sued, bringing an anti-SLAPP motion alleging First Amendment violations.

The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit tossed both the anti-SLAPP claim and Hilton's trademark infringement claim, but allowed the privacy count to proceed [Docket No.  08-55443]. Trial was slated for December before the parties reached their accord.

The greeting card that inspired the lawsuit had Hilton as a waitress warning a male customer: "Don't touch that, it's hot." The customer replies: "What's hot?" Hilton's rejoinder: "That's hot!" Inside, the greeting card reads: "Have a smokin' hot birthday."  Hilton registered the expression "That's Hot!" with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office.  Hallmark's transformative use argument was rejected by the three-judge Ninth Circuit panel, who sent the case back to the trial court to hear the privacy claim.

"TUOL" considers Paris Hilton's likely favorable resolution of her Hallmark lawsuit a publicity interlude to tide us over until the next coke bust or sex tape release. Not great jurisprudence, but more fun than some of the cases the Supreme Court will begin hearing next month.

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