Posted on Friday, April 29th, 2011 by Germain Lussier
Usually it’s ink on a page that can make or break a movie, not ink on a face. In the case of The Hangover Part II though, the tattoo on Ed Helms‘ face could pose yet another problem for the sure-to-be blockbuster sequel. S. Victor Whitmill, the man who designed Mike Tyson‘s famous face tattoo which the film is obviously referencing, is asking for an injunction that would stop Warner Bros. from releasing the film because he holds a trademark on the design. Read more after the break.
The Hollywood Reporter first reported the filing of this lawsuit. Here’s the most pertinent information from the document they obtained:
When Mr. Whitmill created the Original Tattoo, Mr Tyson agreed that Mr. Whitmill would own the artwork and thus, the copyright in the Original Tattoo. Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc.—without attempting to contact Mr. Whitmill, obtain his permission, or credit his creation—has copied Mr. Whitmill’s Original Tattoo and placed it on the face of another actor…This unauthorized exploitation of the Original Tattoo constitutes copyright infringement.
According to the report, also attached to the lawsuit itself are several important documents including Whitmill’s copyright registration and a release signed by Tyson granting exclusive rights.
In the original Hangover, Mike Tyson had a run in with the boys after they stole his tiger and appears in several scenes sporting his trademark tattoo. In the sequel, at least from what we can tell from the trailer, Stu (Helms) gets the same tattoo in the same place as Tyson while messed up in Bangkok. It’s also being used on all the posters for the film.
The Hollywood Reporter surmises that Warner Bros., who did not comment directly, could argue that the tattoo was changed just enough (the corners are straighter in the film, but that’s about it) or that it was used as a parody, there by making it fair use. If that doesn’t work, though, there’s a chance they’d have to pay a large cash settlement in order to get the film in theaters by its Memorial Day release date. And really, we all know that’s what Whitmill is after, right?
Whenever you make a movie, people are hired to specifically clear all copyrighted images that appear – be it on clothing, posters, store fronts, etc. So it was most likely someone’s responsibility to clear that tattoo, they just probably had no idea you could trademark a tattoo.
Do you foresee this becoming an issue? Did you know that you could copyright a tattoo? And do you fault the producers for not clearing the image?