Copyright Law

No more ‘Elvis’ weddings in Las Vegas??

The Authentic Brands Group (ABG) has threatened to put a stop to Elvis-themed weddings in Las Vegas, due to apparent unpermitted trademarks. Now, Elvis fans from all around are probably rolling their eyes with a sarcastic “Thank you, thank you very much.”

by Timothy Geigner of Tech Dirt

When someone mentions Las Vegas, a couple of things are likely to leap directly into your brain. Gambling and casinos, but of course. Perhaps magic shows, too. And, obviously, Elvis. Yes, the idea of Elvis-themed weddings in Las Vegas has reached trope status. But Authentic Brands Group (ABG) would like to put a stop to all of that.

ABG is a licensing troll for celebrities or, more typically, their estates due to them being dead. ABG also has a history of overstating what IP and rights it actually has. Elvis’ estate, meanwhile, also has a history of targeting anyone and everyone with trademark and IP threats, and even lawsuits, that are meritless.

All of which brings us to the present moment, in which ABG is apparently going on a threat blitz against businesses and chapels in and near Las Vegas in order to cease the practice of Elvis-themed weddings.

The company that lords over the King’s image and likeness is cracking down on Las Vegas chapels that book Elvis-themed weddings and otherwise embrace his persona. Authentic Brands Group (ABG), which licenses Elvis Presley-related merchandise, has issued a cease-and-desist letter dated May 19 to several Las Vegas chapels.

ABG specifies “Elvis, “Elvis Presley,” “and “The King of Rock and Roll” as its protected trademarks.

A number of questions leap to mind. First and foremost: hey, ABG, where have you been? There have been Elvis-themed weddings in Las Vegas since 1977. That’s forty five years of completely failing to protect the trademark rights you’re now claiming in your threat letters. What’s changed? Why should this long history of anyone failing to protect this trademark in this way not be taken as abandonment or tacit endorsement? And why does a trademark somehow prevent a person or business from having someone dress as a historical public figure?

And why in the world would the estate want to put an end to a tradition that very much keeps that dead public figure in the public consciousness, leading to ongoing interest in Elvis?

Kent Ripley of Elvis Weddings is among the operators who performs as Presley and is also co-owner of the business. He’s been in business for 25 years and has never received such a warning.

“We get bookings that have been planned for three, four, five years to have an Elvis wedding,” Ripley said. “They want to protect the Elvis brand. But what are they protecting by taking Elvis away from the public?”

It’s exactly the right question to ask. And the “taking away” part is already occurring. Chapels are scrapping Elvis weddings from their offerings and scrubbing their websites of any references to The King.

And so perhaps this is how Elvis finally dies a cultural death, forty five years after his time on Earth expired. A licensing troll pushes rock and roll royalty into mere obscurity.

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