Oscar 'swag bag,' which includes trip to Israel, angers film academy

By REUTERS
February 17, 2016 19:44
1 minute read.

 
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A "Vampire Breast Lift." A laser skin-tightening procedure. A 10-day first-class trip to Israel.

Those are a few of the services included in the $200,000 gift bags that one marketing firm has promised for celebrities attending the Oscars ceremony on Feb. 28.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which hands out the awards, wants the public to know that it hasn't approved any of those items. In a federal lawsuit filed on Tuesday in Los Angeles, the organization accused Distinctive Assets of promoting the gift bags as official Oscars swag.

"Distinctive Assets uses the Academy's trademarks to raise the profile of its 'gift bags' and falsely create the impression of association, affiliation, connection, sponsorship and/or endorsement," said the lawsuit, which names the company's founder, Lash Fary, as a defendant.

Neither Distinctive Assets nor a lawyer representing the company immediately responded to a request for comment early on Wednesday.

Gift bags have been a persistent headache over the years for the Academy, which stopped giving gift baskets to presenters and performers in 2007 after the practice came under closer scrutiny by US tax authorities.

Celebrities who receive gifts and free vacations at awards shows are expected to declare them as income and pay the appropriate taxes, according to the Internal Revenue Service.

The lawsuit said Fary was misleading media outlets by promoting the gift bags with slogans like "Everyone Wins Nominee Gift Bags in Honor of the Oscars(R)," adding that the use of the trademark symbol was a deliberate attempt to imply an official connection.

The Academy cited numerous news articles that referred to the gift bags as "official" or as "Oscar Swag Bags," arguing the coverage shows Fary has engaged in deceptive marketing.

The lawsuit asked a federal judge to prevent Fary from using any Academy trademark and seeks compensation for damages as well as three times the amount of Fary's profits and the academy's legal fees.

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