The Academy calls foul play against gift bags offered certain nominees

On February 16th the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences filed a lawsuit against Lash Fary – otherwise known as Distinctive Arts – for false and infringing representation. Distinctive Arts has been putting together those amazing gift baskets offered to Oscar nominees in the acting and directing categories, and usually the show host for the last 10 years or so. That means about 21 bags.

According to 5WPR CEO Ronn Torossian, “The problem is, Distinctive Assets has no affiliation of any kind with the Academy, who stopped providing gift bags before 2006 after they came to an undisclosed settlement with the IRS paying taxes on the value of bags previously given.”

In 2015, the Academy tried to work things out with the company without having to go to court. But Distinctive Assets has continued to use references to the Oscars and actively create the images that they are affiliated. Since that has carried on, the Academy reported they felt the need to file the lawsuit using their representatives, Quinn Emanuel attorneys and asking for an injunction as well as trebled profits and damages.

The complaint alleges damages have been caused in 2016 through media coverage focused on the not-so-family oriented nature of 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.” Of course, the bags contain much more as well. That’s also part of the problem.

Last year’s bags were more “wholesome,” and included a $14,500 luxury train ride through the Canadian Rockies, a $12,500 glamping trip, a $20,000 year’s worth of use of an Audi A4, and a $14,200 Reset Yourself lifestyle makeover. All in all, the 21 bags that were given out last year came to a total value of more than $2.5 million. Do the math, that means each bag was worth more than $100,000.

It should also be noted that many of these gifts are never used by the celebrities, they may simply go unused, but many are given to charities for them to auction. This year one of the items is a luxury trip to Israel. A group – Artists for Palestine-UK, has requested the recipients give their bags to a Palestinian refugee as a way to help and also protest.

“Back in the day when the Academy was still giving out the bags, George Clooney donated his bag to a charity auction, the bag netted the charity $45,000. Not bad for a freebie.”, says New York Entrepreneur Jonah Engler.

It’s obvious why the Academy has brought suit, they have a long-standing reputation to protect, and gifts that would appear to promote controversial behaviors isn’t something they are interested in. But here’s the real question, Distinctive Assets knew the Academy wanted them to stop last year when their gifts were more low-key in terms of what might cause outrage from the Academy, so why would they push those buttons really hard this season?

Hmmm, could it be the old Hollywood adage, “there’s no such thing as bad publicity?” The Oscars are the equivalent of an annual royal wedding in the U.S., everyone who has any way to hitch their corporate star to the event is likely to make a valiant effort. Just exactly how much value in free publicity, branding, and name recognition do you think DA is receiving from this lawsuit? So, though we do believe there are some areas where you could have bad publicity, we don’t think DA is seeing any of that so far.

Someone must have been planning hard to include several – not just one – controversial items in the 2016 bags, and we believe they had a very good reason. Pushing hot buttons of someone with a much bigger rep has the potential to make a lesser known company. But as a word of advice, before you try this strategy, make sure you’ve hired some high-priced lawyers who’ve got their teeth nice and sharp.


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