While the vast majority of CBD companies pride themselves in adopting an element of integrity when marketing products, a handful of companies are doing the exact opposite: using the likenesses of celebrities without their permission to increase profit margins.
On July 22, Eastwood filed two lawsuits in federal court in Los Angeles, California after a slew of CBD companies allegedly marketed products using his name and/or image without his permission.
Eastwood, 90, is sick and tired of seeing his name and image on articles, marketing materials, and products, when he has absolutely nothing to do with any CBD companies.
“You’ve got to ask yourself one question,” Eastwood said in 1971’s Dirty Harry. “Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?” In true Eastwood fashion, the famed film veteran still isn’t playing games—especially when it involves stealing his name to make a quick buck.
Nearly 20 CBD companies are accused of trademark infringement, defamation, and other violations in Eastwood’s lawsuits. The companies are located in Arizona, California, Delaware, and Florida, and as many as 60 more entities could be named later in future lawsuits. All companies named in the lawsuits appear to sell CBD-infused products.
“Like many of his most famous characters, Mr. Eastwood is not afraid to confront wrongdoing and hold accountable those that try to illegally profit off his name,” court papers read.
The lawsuits also indicate that Eastwood “does not have and never has had” any association with CBD companies.
Initial reports indicate that one of the companies, Sera Labs, dropped the use of Eastwood’s name and image “immediately.” A representative from Sera Labs indicated that the company “worked for a limited time with a publisher and gave them specific advertisements they could use which follow our very strict guidelines”.
According to the Washington Post, two other companies named in the lawsuit, Patriot Supreme and Norok Innovation Inc., did not immediately respond when confronted about the litigation.
One illegitimate article was titled “Big Pharma In Outrage Over Clint Eastwood’s CBD … He Fires Back With This!” Another fake article was titled “Breaking News: Clint Eastwood Exposes Shocking Secret Today.” These fake articles can typically be identified by sketchy URL addresses and cheaply constructed screenshot images.
According to court documents, the fake news articles also incorporate tags to boost their ranking in Google searches for “Clint Eastwood” and other keywords.
While it would be a pleasant surprise if Eastwood was indeed a CBD advocate, he isn’t one in reality, and the articles are completely invented. Likewise, he’s never endorsed any CBD brands or provided any quotes.
The ‘Wild West’ Culture of the CBD Industry
A pattern has emerged in the CBD industry over the past several years: fake articles and endorsements from celebrities who have never heard of the companies before. In addition, the cannabis industry—especially the edible industry—is littered with products that mimic mainstream brands without their permission.
Trademark infringement suits are commonplace in the CBD industry.
Like Eastwood, Montel Williams also was a victim of sketchy CBD companies bearing his name and image without his permission. Williams was forced to sue companies peddling CBD products with his image on the marketing materials.
Williams runs his own line of legitimate CBD products, Montel by Select, that was forced to compete with fake companies bearing his name. After a year of litigation, Williams finally settled the lawsuit against one particular CBD oil company that was using his name and image without permission.
Tom Hanks also fell victim to a fake CBD company endorsement earlier this year—one that he called an “intentional hoax.” It was at least the second time that a CBD company used a fake Hanks endorsement.
CBD and cannabis companies typically post fake testimonials from celebrities that endorse their products. Given the proliferation of celebrity-backed CBD and cannabis brands—it’s difficult to decipher what is real and what isn’t.
Eastwood is the latest celebrity to be exploited by sketchy CBD companies without his permission. When the lawsuits unfold, it can serve as a warning to other companies that are considering using fake celebrity endorsements.