Coming Up Tort: 8 Crazy Pop Culture Lawsuits

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Swimming pools, fancy cars, and a lawyer on speed dial—they're all the trappings of fame. These eight pop culture lawsuits prove that sometimes when notable people fight the law, we all win.

1. Bill Cosby v. CosbySweaters.com

Don't bandy about Bill Cosby's name. The comedian just might come after you, and it won't be with a bowl of Jell-O. Cosby's legal team recently sued blogger Kiley Kmiec over the website CosbySweaters.com, aimed at "sports fans who love music, tech, pop culture, and dumb Internet videos." Kmiec had to change the name of the site, despite the fact that no one owns the trademark for the term "Cosby sweater." To play it safe, I'm going to start calling them "variegated sweaters as worn by TV dad Cliff Huxtable."

2. Chubby Checker v. Hewlett Packard and Palm Inc.

Chubby Checker's most famous for his 1960 hit cover of "The Twist." And Mr. Checker would like to keep it that way! That's why he's suing Hewlett Packard and Palm Inc. for a half-billion dollars in damages over a 99-cent mobile app called The Chubby Checker. The now-disabled app helped users predict the size of male genitalia by entering shoe sizes. (Yep, there was an app for that. With fewer than 100 downloads, turns out.) You know what they say about big celebrities... Big lawsuits!

3. John Waters v. Rugrats

Suing the Rugrats might seem like stealing candy from an animated baby, but John Waters said he'd do just that in 2003. The big stink: Nickelodeon's use of the idea and term "Odorama," which involved giving Rugrats Go Wild ticket holders scratch-and-sniff cards to be smelled during key movie scenes. The idea wasn't new: Waters employed the same idea—under the same trademarked name—in screenings of his 1982 film Polyester. Nickelodeon claimed the idea was an homage to Waters, not theft. But for legal reasons, it made scents to change the name of their concept to Aroma-Scope.

4. Mark Durante v. Kevin Durant

Most of us don't get to choose our nicknames. No one knows who first started calling NBA star Kevin Durant "Durantula," but the name caught on and has been used all over the press. Now Mark Durante, a 1980s hair metal guitarist from obscure bands including the Slammin' Watusis and The Next Big Thing (it wasn't), is suing the Oklahoma City Thunder forward. Durante claims he owns the trademark to "Durantula." It's even his URL. Durant's camp takes no responsibility for the nickname. There's only one way to fairly resolve this: in the courts ... without a basketball.

5. Clint Eastwood v. Palliser Furniture

Sometimes Clint Eastwood likes talking to chairs. But now he's in a big argument about one with Palliser Furniture. Eastwood sued the company for trademark infringement when they named one of their plush, leather theater chairs "The Eastwood." And this won't be Palliser's first time in court. They were recently sued for another chair named "The Brando" and sell other Hollywood-inspired models, including "The Connery" and "The Bronson." If Palliser's not careful, it could end up The Bankrupt.

6. Rosa Parks v. OutKast

"Rosa Parks" was the most successful single on OutKast's 1998 album Aquemini. It's also the only one that got the hip hop duo sued by the civil rights activist. In addition to using Parks' name without permission, her legal reprsentative felt the song was disrespectful to her legacy. Some offending lyrics: "Ah ha, hush that fuss / Everybody move to the back of the bus / Do you want to bump and slump with us / We the type of people make the club get crunk." The case was dismissed and appealed a few times before being privately settled for an undisclosed sum in 2005.

7. Aza v. Carly Rae Jepsen

Whether you've listened to it 374,829 times or not, "Call Me Maybe" is a catchy tune. But a Russian singer named Aza alleges that Carly Rae Jepsen doesn't deserve the credit. The Ukrainian chanteuse claims that Jepsen's hit is just a slightly altered version of her Christmas song "Hunky Santa." We're including the video below, so you can be the judge. I'm no lawyer, but I'm thinking, "Hey, she just sued her for publicity. And this is crazy. But this lawsuit really exists, so throw it out maybe?"

8. Mr. T v. Best Buy

We pity the fool who uses Mr. T's likeness without permission. In 2003, Best Buy did just that in a print ad which made it look like Mr. T was fighting a salesman. Naturally, Mr. T punched them in the face ... with a lawsuit. A lack of online information (web-idence?) suggests that the electronics retailer "quit its jibba jabba" and the matter was settled out of court.

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March 25, 2013 - 11:00am
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