The fight for Marilyn's name

Thirty-four years after her death, Marilyn Monroe's name suddenly has become the focus of a new battle over trademark rights on the Internet.

Thirty-four years after her death, Marilyn Monroe's name suddenly has become the focus of a new battle over trademark rights on the Internet.

CMG Worldwide, which oversees the estate of Marilyn Monroe, disclosed today that it sued Marilyn Monroe Weston Limited and its principal, Edward Weston, for trademark infringement. Weston's Web site is designed to sell photos of Monroe. "Here you will find the definitive collection of Marilyn Monroe photographs, taken by some of the finest glamour and portrait photographers in the world," it states.

"Defendants' domain name, 'marilynmonroe.com,' incorporates the registered mark, Marilyn Monroe, which is the property of CMG's principal," according to the nine-page suit filed in Superior Court in Indianapolis. "Defendants' site also features Monroe's name, image, likeness, a facsimile of her signature, and other visual depictions of Monroe, all for the purposes of furthering the sales of defendants' commercial activities."

It is the latest case of the fight over names that are used in cyberspace. Like vanity license plates, domain names have become a booming market.

And the legal battles over ownership of more popular monikers have proliferated with their popularity. Recent cases have involved Yahoo, Esquire magazine, and the Blue Note jazz club in New York.

In an interview with CNET, Weston discounted the lawsuit this way: "Marilyn's name belongs to the world. We're refuting the charges." Still, he said his lawyers are holding talks with CMG to see if a settlement can be reached.

"Weston and his site are trying to use a trademark owned by someone else to benefit themselves," Mark Roesler, chairman of CMG Worldwide, said today. "The Internet was not designed for others to take property rights from lawful owners."

CGM, which maintains its own Web site, also represents such legends as James Dean, Humphrey Bogart, Babe Ruth, Vince Lombardi, and the champion racehorse Cigar.

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    Jeff Pelline is editor of CNET News.com. Jeff promises to buy a Toyota Prius once hybrid cars are allowed in the carpool lane with solo drivers.

     

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