Court: Paris Hilton can pursue Hallmark lawsuit

Mon Aug 31, 2009 3:25pm EDT
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By Jonathan Stempel

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The celebrity and heiress Paris Hilton may pursue her lawsuit against Hallmark Cards over its use of her picture and catchphrase "That's hot" on a greeting card, a federal appeals court ruled on Monday.

Hilton had contended that Hallmark violated her privacy and right of publicity by ripping off a scene from her reality TV show "The Simple Life" on a birthday card captioned "Paris's First Day as a Waitress."

A three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Hallmark's argument that its depiction of the Hilton Hotels heiress was protected speech as a matter of law.

It sent the case back to a lower court, which had turned aside Hilton's claim of trademark infringement but rejected other Hallmark defenses.

Lincoln Bandlow, a lawyer at Lathrop & Gage LLP in Los Angeles representing Hallmark, said "the analysis of the First Amendment defense is incorrect. It will leave a lot of speakers subjected to meritless right of publicity claims."

He said Hallmark will evaluate options including a possible appeal to the full 9th Circuit or the U.S. Supreme Court.

Brent Blakely, a lawyer for Hilton, was not available for comment.

The card showed Hilton's face superimposed on a cartoon of a waitress serving a plate of food to a restaurant customer.   Continued...

<p>U.S. socialite Paris Hilton is filmed by her personal photographer as she tours the Grand Hills hotel in Broumana, east of Beirut July 3, 2009. Picture taken July 3, 2009. REUTERS/ Sherine Raffoul</p>