Carmen Electra, other models sue NC strip clubs, accuse them of trademark infringement

Five strip clubs and one nightclub in North Carolina are accused of using pictures of famous models without permission to promote their businesses on social media, according to federal court files.
Nearly two dozen professional models - including Tara Leigh Patrick, aka Carmen Electra - sued clubs in the Eastern District of North Carolina on Wednesday and Thursday, saying they violated federal trademark laws by using the models' names and pictures without consent .
Clubs include Capital Cabaret in Morrisville, Secrets Cabaret in Fayetteville, Victoria’s Cabaret in Fayetteville, The Cave Gentlemen’s Club in Jacksonville, Ambis 1 Nightclub in Raleigh, and Cherry’s Gentlemen’s Club in Havelock.
The Cave Gentlemen's appears to have closed in 2018 after the ABC commission revoked its liquor license following a fatal shooting in the parking lot, the Jacksonville Daily News previously reported.
Cherry’s Gentlemen’s Club now operates under the name Platinum Gentlemen’s Club. A Platinum representative told McClatchy News that the previous owner was named in the lawsuit and that he had "no information about his dealings." Representatives of the remaining clubs did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday.
According to the individual complaints filed against each of the clubs, images of the models were used in advertising and social media to "market to prospects, grow their fan base, and build and maintain their brand."
The use of her likeness made it look like the models were advocating or affiliated with the clubs, a lawyer representing them said in court records.
"Defendants' advertising practices are immoral, unethical, oppressive and unscrupulous in that they have attempted to confuse the public for their own commercial gain by implying that the plaintiffs are affiliated with, assisted, connected with Capital and / or are strippers, "the attorney said in the lawsuit against Capital Cabaret.
Carmen Electra is a named plaintiff in three of the lawsuits against Victoria’s Cabaret, The Cave Gentlemen’s Club and Cherry’s Gentlemen’s Club.
According to court records, a picture of her body was used several times between 2016 and 2018 to promote a “Thirsty Thursday” event at Victoria. Another photo of Carmen Electra with a bottle of Crown Royal was posted on The Cave's Facebook page in 2017. and a picture of Carmen Electra with another woman was advertised as "Two for Tuesday" on Cherry's Facebook page in 2015.
The lawsuits aren't the first to challenge strip clubs for allegedly using photos of models without their knowledge.
In 2019, Carmen Electra and fellow models sued a local strip club in Dayton, Ohio, for alleged trademark infringement in a wave of lawsuits filed across the country, The Dayton Daily News reported. According to the newspaper, as of November 2018, more than 50 clubs in eight states had been sued.
A federal judge in New York ordered at least three strip clubs to stop using Carmen Electra's likeness in 2019, although the order did not extend to other models included in the lawsuit, Bloomberg Law reported.
The judge found that only Carmen Electra had a sufficiently recognizable trademark to warrant a false advertising claim under trademark laws, according to the media.
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