Latin American singer Selena Quintanilla’s father sues cruise company for trademark infringement

The lawsuit against cruise company alleges trademark infringement and violation of California’s right of publicity
LOS ANGELES - AUG 30: Chris Perez, Suzette Quintanilla, Selena Wax Figure, A.B. Quintanilla as 'Madame Tussauds unveils a wax figure of Selena Quintanilla' on August 30, 2016 in Los Angeles, CA

(L-r) Selina Quintanilla-Perez's former husband Chris Perez, sister Suzette Quintanilla and brother A.B. Quintanilla as 'Madame Tussauds unveils a wax figure of Selena Quintanilla' on August 30, 2016 in Los Angeles Shutterstock; Joe Seer

The father of the celebrated US Mexican singer Selina Quintanilla-Perez is suing a holiday cruise company in a Californian court for trademark infringement and violations of the right of publicity related to the company’s tribute cruises to his late daughter.

Quintanilla-Perez was murdered in 1995 and the father of the singer, Abraham Quintanilla Jr, is arguing that the cruse company is illegally using his daughter Selena’s design plus word trademark SELENA to promote its Cumbia Cruise events entitled ‘Tributo a Selena’.

According to the lawsuit filed on 10 July in the Central District of California, her father is the registered property rights holder in and to the deceased Selena’s name, voice, signature, photograph and likeness in connection with products, goods and services.

The lawsuit states that her father regularly receives substantial financial offers requesting permission to use Selena’s name, voice, photographs, among other things, to endorse products and services.

But the defendant, which provides ferry and charter boat services through its Cumbia Cruise LA service, “engaged in the unauthorised and unlawful promotion, marketing and sale of services and/or merchandise through or containing the name, identity, image and depicted likeness of Selena and registered mark,” violating the plaintiffs rights under federal and state law.

The plaintiff is seeking any profits that the defendant made from the allegedly unlawful acts, along with damages including lost profits to the plaintiff. 

Commenting on the case, Nicole Haff, an intellectual property and entertainment litigator at Michelman & Robinson, pointed out that there is no federal right to publicity law. While most states recognise this right, through common law, statutory law, or both, some states do not. However, California does recognise the right of publicity through its common and statutory law and provides postmortem rights that are descendible.

She added: “Texas, where Selena resided before she died, also has a statutory postmortem right of publicity, that is also descendible. Whether California law should even apply will likely be at issue in this case since Selena resided in Texas immediately before her tragic death.”

The singer was the subject of a 1997 film entitled Selena starring Jennifer Lopez as the titular singer.

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