Trademarks Gone Wild

Former Girls Gone Wild media darling Joe Francis fell out of favor after a harsh exposé in the Los Angeles Times, and 10 months in jail for tax evasion didn’t do much to rehabilitate his image. But that hasn’t deterred him or his lawyers from continuing to sue anyone who tries to sell anything under a “Girls Gone (Fill In The Blank)” label.

In 2007, Girls Gone Wild famously went after the micro-winery Girls Gone Wine in Tulsa, Oklahoma for allegedly trading off its goodwill, and ended up getting its head handed to it. In 2009, Francis and his lawyers went after AT&T and Verizon for distributing mobile content under a Girls Gone Mobile banner, and the case settled with the defendants agreeing to pay a de minimis sum. Last year, Francis’ fortunes seemed to be on the mend when a St. Louis jury ruled that the Girls Gone Wild Sorority Orgy tape did not violate the rights of a woman who claimed that GGW inappropriately filmed her dancing provocatively atop a bar.

But now Francis finds himself embroiled in yet another lawsuit brought by four underage girls who claim that they were videotaped in various states of undress during Spring Break. Last week, a federal appellate court ruled that the girls can testify anonymously, though at least one local paper has vowed to release their names, as the girls are no longer minors, and the free speech community (and the court itself) is divided about allowing the girls to proceed anonymously. Adding insult to injury, Francis was also indicted last week by a Las Vegas grand jury for failing to pay a $2.5 million gambling debt.

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