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Carson v. Here’s Johnny Portable Toilet

March 15, 2012
The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson

Image via Wikipedia

Why it Matters:

This case involves the use of a phrase generally associated with a popular entertainer for commercial purposes.

Year: 1983

Summary:

As the star of “The Tonight Show,” John Carson was introduced five nights a week with the phrase “Here’s Johnny.” The defendants in this case used the phrase “Here’s Johnny” as part of their business selling and renting portable toilets.

The defendants agreed that they chose this phrase because of the connection with Johnny Carson and but for such strong association between the celebrity and the phrase, they would probably not have used it. Therefore, they intentionally used Carson’s identity for commercial use.

Results:

žThe district court dismissed the claim because there was no use of Carson’s name or likeness.
The Court of Appeal thought the right of publicity should included a celebrity’s entire identity. What mattered was that the public would think that the person was associated to the product because he or she could be identified.
žUltimately Here’s Johnny Portable Toilets wasn’t allowed to continue under that name and was also denied a trademark for the phrase.
Carson V. Here’s Johnny Portable Toilets, Inc., 698 F. 2d 831 (Court of Appeals, 6th Circuit 1983).
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