Five strip clubs and a nightclub in North Carolina are accused of using pictures of famous models without permission to promote their businesses on social media, according to federal court filings.
Nearly two dozen professional models — including Tara Leigh Patrick, aka Carmen Electra — sued the clubs in the Eastern District of North Carolina on Wednesday and Thursday, saying they violated federal trademark laws by using the models’ name and likeness without consent.
The clubs include Capital Cabaret in Morrisville, Secrets Cabaret in Fayetteville, Victoria’s Cabaret in Fayetteville, The Cave Gentlemen’s Club in Jacksonville, Ambis 1 Nightclub in Raleigh and Cherry’s Gentlemen’s Club in Havelock.
The Cave Gentlemen’s appears to have closed in 2018 after the ABC Commission revoked its liquor license following a fatal shooting in the parking lot, the Jacksonville Daily News previously reported.
Cherry’s Gentlemen’s Club now operates under the name Platinum Gentlemen’s Club. A representative from Platinum told McClatchy News the previous owner is named in the lawsuit and he has “no info on his dealings.” Representatives from the remaining clubs did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday.
According to the individual complaints filed against each of the clubs, pictures of the models were used in advertising and on social media to “market to potential clients, grow their fan base, and build and maintain their brand.”
The use of their likeness made it look like the models endorsed the clubs or were associated with them, an attorney representing them said in court filings.
“Defendants’ advertising practices are immoral, unethical, oppressive and unscrupulous insofar as they have sought to confuse the public for their own commercial benefit by implying that plaintiffs are affiliated, endorse, are associated with and/or are strippers at Capital,” the attorney said in the complaint against Capital Cabaret.
Carmen Electra is a named plaintiff in three of the lawsuits against Victoria’s Cabaret, The Cave Gentlemen’s Club and Cherry’s Gentlemen’s Club.
According to court filings, an image of her body was used to promote a “Thirsty Thursday” event at Victoria’s numerous times between 2016 and 2018. Another photograph of Carmen Electra with a bottle of Crown Royal was posted on The Cave’s Facebook page in 2017, and a picture of Carmen Electra with another woman was advertised as a “Two for Tuesday” on Cherry’s Facebook page in 2015.
The lawsuits aren’t the first to challenge strip clubs for allegedly using photographs of models without their knowledge.
In 2019, Carmen Electra joined other models in suing a local strip club in Dayton, Ohio, over alleged trademark infringement as part of a wave of lawsuits filed across the country, The Dayton Daily News reported. According to the newspaper, more than 50 clubs in eight states had been sued as of November 2018.
A federal judge in New York ordered at least three strip clubs to stop using Carmen Electra’s likeness in 2019, though the order didn’t extend to other models included in the suit, Bloomberg Law reported.
The judge determined only Carmen Electra had a recognizable enough brand to warrant a false endorsement claim under trademark laws, according to the media outlet.