March 20, 2007

Last Thursday, Carol Burnett filed a lawsuit against the Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation for alleged copyright infringement relating to her likeness in a “Family Guy” episode. In the suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California in Los Angeles, Burnett alleges violations of her exclusive rights to her name and likeness regarding the depiction of her known cleaning-woman character on “Family Guy,” as well as for the use of an altered version of the theme music to “The Carol Burnett Show.” Specifically, Burnett alleges that her “Charwoman” character was depicted on “Family Guy” as a part-time janitor in a porn shop “in front of a row of blow-up dolls.” In addition, one of the characters on “Family Guy” (Quagmire) was shown to make a “vulgar reference to Ms. Burnett and her father,” referring specifically to her ear tug at the end of each episode of “The Carol Burnett Show.” Burnett is seeking at least $2 million in damages for the alleged copyright infringement and for violations of Section 43 of the Lanham Act, her statutory right of publicity under the California Civil Code (§ 3344), and common law misappropriation of her name and likeness.

Complaint and 32 second Family Guy video clip: LINK
Yahoo! News Article: LINK
California Civil Code § 3344: LINK


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I am a patent attorney with Reichel IP LLC, where I concentrate my practice on patent drafting and prosecution, trademarks, and general intellectual property matters. I currently focus on the preparation and prosecution of medical device and other life sciences patent applications, and being actively involved in a number of local not-for-profit organizations.

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