And the lawsuit goes to…Distinctive Assets, a marketing company being sued by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences over controversial swag bags.
Although not affiliated with the Academy, marketer Lash Fary’s company has traditionally assembled an “Everyone Wins” Nominee Gift Bag that is given to the major nominees for the Academy Awards. This year’s bag, which includes controversial items like a marijuana vaporizer and sex toys, prompted the Academy to level charges of trademark infringement, dilution and false advertising.
“Distinctive Assets’ continued use of the Academy’s trademarks not only infringes the Academy’s trademarks, but it is also likely to dilute the distinctiveness of the Academy’s famous trademarks and tarnish their goodwill,” the lawsuit stated.
Furthermore, the lawsuit states that Distinctive Assets posted on Facebook about its gift bags using the hashtag “#OscarGiftBag” – a week after the Academy sent the company a letter requesting that advertising and press releases specifically state that the gift bags are not official Oscar products.
Several media outlets reported on the raunchy gifts and outrageous combined price – $232,000 – as though the swag bags were handed out by the Academy. The Academy stopped issuing gift bags in 2006 after the IRS stepped in and taxed the contents.
“Press about the 2016 gift bags has focused on both the less-than-wholesome nature of some of the products contained in the bags, and the unseemliness of giving such high-value gifts, including trips costing tens of thousands of dollars, to an elite group of celebrities,” the lawsuit states.
In an interview with International Business Times, Fary said the bags were a “very small part of overall Oscar celebrations here in Los Angeles where everything is all about free clothes, free jewelry and free pamper treatments. And we do a little tribute to that.”
This year’s bag also included a $55,000, 10-day vacation to Israel with first-class airline tickets. Activists opposed to Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories protested, even taking out an ad in the LA Times saying, “#SkipTheTrip. Don’t endorse Israeli apartheid.”
Seeking damages equal to triple the profits gained from sales of the bags, the Academy demands that Fary cease advertising its giveaways as Oscar-affiliated.