Mattel’s Barbie doll rendition of Elly May Clampett character from The Beverly Hillbillies draws lawsuit from actress Donna Douglas
Mattel, maker of the iconic Barbie doll, has been sued by Donna Douglas, the actress who played Elly May Clampett in the iconic TV show, The Beverly Hillbillies. Mattel recently issued an Elly May Barbie doll, prompting Douglas’ filing. The Federal lawsuit was filed in Louisiana and alleges that Mattel is “engaging in the unauthorized use of (her) name, likeness, image and attributes” as Elly May.
Douglas’ Mattel lawsuit alleges that a picture of Douglas is used in the packaging and that Mattel’s promotional copy for the new Barbie doll states that the doll “captures the essence of the classic ’60s TV character and show.”
Mattel apparently licensed the rights to the Beverly Hillbillies through the production company that owns the rights to the show, which ran on CBS for almost a decade through the 1960s and into the 1970s. Douglas appeared as Elly May in every episode of the show. The lawsuit notes that Douglas still makes public appearances in relation to her Elly May character.
It is interesting to consider the interplay between an individual’s Right of Publicity when it is implicated via a character portrayal in a television show. Actors George Wendt and John Ratzenberger, Norma and Cliff of Cheers, sued Host International when the Cheers-themed restaurants introduced animatronic robots that played clips of Norm and Cliff banter from the show. That case was settled out of court.
Here’s a link to the article: http://www.cnn.com/2011/SHOWBIZ/TV/05/05/elly.may.barbie.lawsuit/index.html?hpt=Sbin
And here’s a link to the Cheers case: http://rightofpublicity.com/pdf/cases/wendt.pdf