For the past decade, the Academy has continually disavowed “Oscar gift bags,” but this year the org is taking it further, suing Distinctive Assets.
On Feb. 16, the Academy went to California federal court and filed against Lash Fary, otherwise known as Distinctive Assets. The marketing company offers products to celebrities as a promotion and has been creating gift bags for several years.
Distinctive Assets is promoting its gifts with slogans such as “Everyone Wins at the Oscars! Nominee Gift Bags.” The company has received a lot of coverage by offering its goodies to Academy Award nominees, and the Academy last year asked for disclaimers that it has no affiliation with these packages.
“Last year, the Academy attempted to address Distinctive Assets’ false and infringing representation without litigation. We had no choice but to file a lawsuit,” an Academy spokesperson said on Friday.
The filing by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, repped by Quinn Emanuel attorneys, are seeking an injunction and trebled profits and damages, after clashing with the company last year.
In this week’s filing, the Academy said, “Distinctive Assets’ continued use of the Academy’s trademarks not only infringes the Academy’s trademarks, but it is also likely to dilute the distinctiveness of the Academy’s famous trademarks and tarnish their goodwill.”
The complaint said that media coverage of the 2016 gift bags has focused on “the less-than-wholesome nature of some of the products contained in the bags,” citing a $5,500 certificate for plastic surgery, a $1,900 “vampire breast lift,” a $250 sex toy and a $250 marijuana vaporizer.
The Academy is already fighting to maintain its image amid the #OscarsSoWhite controversy.
In 2006, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences entered into long negotiations with the IRS. The Academy agreed to pay taxes on gift bags handed out to presenters and performers. As part of the settlement with the IRS, neither side would discuss the amount paid, or how far back the taxes extended.
At that point, the Academy decided to discontinue the gift bags — and other companies took over.
In 2012, Distinctive Assets offered an Everybody Wins package, touting the gifts as a great consolation prize for anyone who didn’t win an Oscar in the directing or four acting categories.
Last year, Distinctive Assets offered gifts that were more “wholesome,” including a luxury train ride through the Canadian Rockies worth more than $14,500; a “glamping” trip valued at $12,500; a year’s worth of all-Audi A4 car rental from Silvercar valued at $20,000; and a Reset Yourself lifestyle makeover package worth more than $14,200.
However, last year’s package also included a vibrator, vaporizer and $20,000 gift certificate to have Enigma Life founder Olessia Kantor fly out to meet with each nominee “to discuss their 2015 horoscope, analyze dreams and teach them mind control techniques.”
Meanwhile, one of this year’s items, a luxury trip to Israel funded by the government, has come under fire from Artists for Palestine UK, with the organization imploring attendees to “give your bag to a Palestinian refugee.”
Last year, immediately following the Oscar ceremony, a rep at 3D Public Relations and Marketing told Variety that all of the losing nominees in the acting and directing categories (and host Neil Patrick Harris) accepted these bags. That meant 21 bags went out, at an estimated value of more than $2.5 million.
While the bags are great promotion for the companies involved, it’s dubious how many of the offers are redeemed by the stars. When the Academy gave out gift bags, George Clooney was one of the stars who donated the goods to charity. At an auction, his bag brought $45,000.
The Academy spokesperson also said on Wednesday, “Distinctive Assets has been falsely representing that its extravagant ‘gift bags’ [are] redistributed by the Academy, at its direction, or with its endorsement or approval. The Academy has no affiliation with Distinctive Assets. It does not hire Distinctive Assets, consult with it, or help it distribute gift bags. All reports of an ‘official Oscar gift bag,’ or a fight bag distributed at the Oscars containing the products Distinctive Assets promotes, are untrue.”