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Actress Jennifer Love Hewitt is suing the makers of a weight-loss spray that was featured -- and dismissed as a "scam" -- on ABC's "Shark Tank."
The "I Know What You Did Last Summer" actress is claiming the company behind Slim Spray used her celebrity status to promote its product without her permission, writes The Hollywood Reporter.
What is Hewitt doing this summer to stop the company from continuing to bank on her image?
According to the complaint filed Tuesday in Los Angeles County Superior Court, Hewitt claims that The Marz Group LLC has been using a photograph of her holding its product at a red-carpet event to promote its line of Slim Spray weight loss supplements without her permission.
The Slim Spray was featured on a June 2013 episode of "Shark Tank," a show which features entrepreneurs pitching their products to professional investors.
According to the complaint, the "Shark Tank" hosts were not impressed, calling the product a "scam" and a "hustle" and asking the company's representative, "You realize how stupid this sounds, right?"
Hewitt is also apparently not a fan of the product. In her complaint, she asserts two different but very similar causes of action against the company: violation of the statutory right to publicity and violation of the common law right to publicity.
Under the California Civil Code, anyone who knowingly using another's likeness for the purpose of advertising or selling products without that person's consent is liable for any damages caused by that use or $750, whichever is greater. In this instance, Hewitt claims that her damages are greater than $750 (and in fact greater than the $25,000 minimum for unlimited civil cases in California) by virtue of her personal celebrity, which the complaint alleges has been "degraded" by the unauthorized use of her image to promote this product. The statute also allows a plaintiff to any profits derived from the use as well as punitive damages.
The common law right of publicity is very similar to the statutory right, but is derived from case law and is typically broader in its application, such as allowing recovery for imitating a performer's distinctive voice.
In California, plaintiff can assert claims violations of both the common law and statutory rights to publicity simultaneously, as Hewitt has done in this case.
Hewitt's lawsuit apparently follows a cease-and-desist letter that her lawyers sent to The Marz Group in March, THR reports. After the lawsuit is properly served, The Marz Group will have 30 days to file a response.
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