Michael Jackson's attorneys accuse companies of charity scam

Wed Sep 30, 2009 8:45am EDT
 
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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Attorneys for Michael Jackson sued two California charities on Tuesday, accusing them of scamming the dead singer's fans by using his name and catchphrases to solicit funds.

The Heal the World Foundation and affiliated corporation United Fleet pretend to have a legitimate charity tied to Jackson, but they had no relationship to him or his family, the administrators of Jackson's estate said.

They have used "King of Pop" and "Heal the World," two phrases associated with Jackson, to fool the public into thinking they are working for his causes, and have taken advantage of his death on June 25 to further their ends, the administrators said.

A representative of Heal the World Foundation could not immediately be reached for comment, but the group defines itself on its website as a "universal charity organization designed to improve the conditions of all mankind."

Jackson founded his own Heal the World Foundation in 1992 to help needy people around the world, but administrators of his estate said it is no longer active, and is not related to the two targets of the lawsuit.

The two entities have registered six Jackson-related trademarks, have applied for 41 additional ones and have sold merchandise using those trademarks, the lawsuit stated.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in California by the two administrators, Jackson attorney John Branca and music executive John McClain, allege trademark infringement, unfair competition and other violations.

The administrators are asking a judge to block the Heal the World Foundation and United Fleet from using Jackson's name or catchphrases.

Jackson died of an overdose of prescription drugs and authorities are investigating the doctors who treated him.

(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis: Editing by Bob Tourtellotte)

 
<p>A woman walks past a memorial banner that fans have signed at the L.A. Live complex for the opportunity to purchase tickets for a special showing of the "Michael Jackson's This Is It" movie in Los Angeles, California, September 25, 2009. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok</p>