(Reuters) - “Jersey Shore” star Michael “The Situation” Sorrentino on Tuesday sued retailer Abercrombie & Fitch over what he claims was a publicity stunt to sell clothes using phrases associated with the reality TV actor.
The complaint, filed by Sorrentino and his company MPS Entertainment in federal court in southern Florida, stems from an offer Abercrombie & Fitch publicized in August to pay cast members of the hit TV show not to wear the company’s apparel.
The offer, which Sorrentino claims was false, made headlines worldwide because typically companies want celebrities to use their products for promotion, but the “Jersey Shore” cast is known for partying and other qualities with which the company said it did not want to associate.
In August, the company said it was “deeply concerned” that Sorrentino “could cause significant damage” to its brand’s “aspirational nature.” Sorrentino, however, thinks the company had something else in mind, according to the lawsuit.
“Starting in August 2011, Defendant (the company) embarked on a grand, worldwide advertising campaign using Sorrentino’s name, image and likeness to create brand awareness for its products by falsely claiming that Defendant had offered money to Sorrentino if he would stop wearing Defendant’s goods,” the lawsuit states.
“That offer was never made to Sorrentino, nor was it ever conveyed to Sorrentino by a representative,” the suit states.
The suit claims the company “has significantly profited off of the use of its false affiliation with Sorrentino, and it has wrongly used Sorrentino’s name, image and likeness for advertising purposes in violation of applicable law.”
The suit targeted two of the clothing retailer’s T-shirt designs featuring the phrases “The Fitchuation” and “GTL...You Know The Deal,” and claimed Abercrombie & Fitch “obviously intended to create a false association” with the “Jersey Shore” star when it released it’s statement in August.
An Abercrombie & Fitch spokesman was not immediately available to comment.
Sorrentino and MPS Entertainment trademarked his “Jersey Shore” nickname, “The Situation” and catchphrase “GTL” — an acronym for gym, tan, laundry — in 2009, after the first season of MTV’s “Jersey Shore” became widely popular.
Sorrentino sells his own “GTL” and “The Situation” branded products, including T-shirts, on his official website.
MTV’s “Jersey Shore” is a reality series following a group of young Italian-American men and women living, working and partying together.
The popularity of the show has earned great fame for its cast members, including Sorrentino, Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi and Paul “Pauly D” DelVecchio. All of them have branched out into endorsing and marketing their own products.
Reporting and Writing by Piya Sinha-Roy; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte