Why the Candy Man Can't --- and Shouldn't, Either!
Hot on the heels of a lawsuit charging that they apparently infringed upon the image of Times Square icon the Naked Cowboy, the makers of M&M's Chocolate Candies have been slapped with another lawsuit -- this time, it's a $10 million federal suit accusing Mars, Inc. of using the cast of the classic 1960s sitcom The Addams Family for their Dark Chocolate video, web and print ads.
Freelance entertainment broker Bonnie Vent, on behalf of Genesis Creations, representing Lisa Loring, Kenneth Weatherwax and Felix Silla, said that she, Ms. Vent, approached the then parent company of M&M's, Masterfoods, in August of 2006 with the idea of launching the project by that Halloween Night, hoping to have the Addams Family cast interacting with the M&Ms Chocolate characters in order to cross-promote the reelase of an upcoming Addams Family DVD --- but those plans never materialized. Well, executives at Genesis Creations were then shocked by M&M/Mars' decision in April 2007 to put a similar series of TV commercials featuring Morticia, Gomez and six of their clan --- Lurch the butler, Granny Addams, Pugsley and Wednesday, Cousin Itt, and Uncle Fester --- doing their show's famous theme song, music and lyrics by Vic Mizzy. Finger snaps and all!
"The ads came out, and they didn't bother paying us or even acknowledging that the basic ideas came from us," ranted Ms. Vent. "It's like they were basically saying, 'We don't need to pay the cast members. Let's just turn 'em all into M&Ms.' " Ms. Vent, on behalf of Genesis, is suing for breach of implied contract and unfair enrichment. As of now, the ad no longer is accessible via m-ms.com, and Ms. Vent does not know exactly when they took it off. She didn't think about suing until she first got wind of the news that Robert John Burck, alias the Naked Cowboy, had sued M&M/Mars for filching his image for use on two giant animated billboards at their Times Square store, M&Ms World.
In that $6 million lawsuit, the Naked Cowboy accused M&M/Mars of capitalizing upon his image by briefly flashing a blue M&M, wearing the Stetson-clad legend's familiar cowboy bots and briefs for the purpose of selling the candy. The image was part of a five-minute CGI video where the Chocolate characters performed several street scenes spoofing various Manhattan icons, among them King Kong and Lady Liberty.
Now while this has little impact on ol' Naked's inclusion as one of your Dragonmaster's Champions of the Imagination, what I need to tell these sillies at M&M/Mars is this: If you can't get things together nice and legally, and don't seek out proper contracts, much less the originator's permission, then just don't do the damn thing at all, by Merlin's beard! This is why the folks at Hormel Foods went away mad when they, as the makers of Spam, tried to sue the Muppets for naming a monster Spa'am in their now-classic film, Muppet Treasure Island. Would that corporate America could learn to get some bloomin' sense of humor, say I! When was the last time you actually saw Microsoft actually dare to laugh at itself, I'd like to know?
As always, America, I wanna know what you think. Gimme an e-mail at either firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.