Celebrity endorsements are a cornerstone of the marketing industry.
Anyone who has turned on a television in America in the past 75 years has seen full force just what happens when a famous face aligns with a brand. The results are woven into the fabric of our cultural history, be it the rise of Air Jordans or the George Foreman grill.
In some cases, the efforts of advertisers have been downright ghoulish. Case in point: there’s a cottage industry built around using dead celebrities to sell stuff. At a slightly less egregious level are the companies and brands that borrow the endorsement of a public figure without ever seeking permission or offering compensation.
That’s apparently what two CBD companies have done to actor Clint Eastwood, as evidenced by federal lawsuits filed Wednesday on behalf of the star.
According to the Los Angeles Times, “Eastwood seeks damages and a jury trial over his right of publicity and for trademark infringement.” The paper also notes that case is “among the first against ingestible health supplement companies for faking celebrity endorsements.”
If fans of Eastwood were hoping this action would include the actor’s personal thoughts on cannabis, it is not advised that you feel lucky. Instead, the court filings make no mention of where the “Every Which Way But Loose” co-star falls when it comes to getting blazed. However, given Eastwood once gave a public address to an empty chair, it’s also possible he’s dabbled before.
Speculation aside, the companies currently facing Eastwood’s legal wrath include Florida’s Norok Innovation Inc., the California nonprofit CBD Green Labs, and Michigan’s Natural Stress Solutions. As the L.A. Times details, the suit alleges these operations used Eastwood’s celebrity “to drive traffic to websites without his consent.”
In part, the lawsuit states:
“Defendants have figuratively posted a sign with Mr. Eastwood’s trademark in front of their online store to attract consumers and caused the consuming public to believe that Mr. Eastwood is associated with and/or endorsed the CBD Online marketplace Defendants’ CBD products, when no such association actually exists.”
Another lawsuit — this one filed by Eastwood’s company, Garrapata LLC — targeted another batch of who allegedly borrowed the “Million Dollar Baby” director’s likeness without permission. That group, which includes Delaware’s Sera Labs, California’s Greendios, and Arizona’s For Our Vets, is facing suit for creating “a false, defamatory, and wholly fabricated ‘news article’ to sell and promote CBD products” as the filing states.
Fake endorsements are no trivial matter when it comes to the potential profits at play. In December, the Better Business Bureau estimated that consumers have lost more than $1.3 billion to such scams in the past decade, according to the Los Angeles Times.
This statistic is very telling, in that it reveals how the true victims of such crimes are not Oscar-winners but everyday people.
What happens when a company uses the face of someone like Eastwood to hawk (likely bogus and possibly harmful) CBD products, people believe in the validity of those products. At best, that results in losing whatever was spent on the purchase. But things can also get a lot worse. Packaging tainted or outright dangerous products with the fake comfort of a celebrity’s approval is a core argument in favor of eradicating the unregulated market.
It’s not about ensuring the rich get richer. It’s about making sure people don’t ingest poison. If the VAPI crisis taught us anything, it’s that the black market is booming and that what it’s selling isn’t safe. Ignoring what’s happening just because it’s relegated only to illicit products is failing the core duties that underscore a legal market. If the government can’t keep cannabis safe, why should anyone play by their rules?
At the same time, one can wonder about what might happen were the type of folks who idolize Eastwood offered a cannabis product approved by Dirty Harry himself? Could it provide a viable step towards further dismantling stigmas? It just might.
That’s the added irony to the situation: Eastwood is suing CBD companies instead of starting one. He’s welcome to stay as far away from the industry as he’d like, but even straight shooters need fresh ammo every now and then.