Las Vegas Chapels Hit With Legal Order to Stop Using Elvis Presley’s Name + Likeness
Sorry Elvis, there may soon be Las Vegas wedding chapels where the couples can't help falling in love without you. That's because, as reported by the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the licensing company that controls the usage of "The King" has ordered certain chapel operators to stop using Elvis in wedding ceremonies.
Authentic Brands Group (ABG) sent a cease-and-desist letter to multiple chapels on May 19, expecting that any Elvis impersonators or uses of Elvis' likenesses will be leaving the respective buildings. ABG manages the estates of Marilyn Monroe, Muhammad Ali and oversees the holdings of about 50 consumer brands. Within their letter, they cite mentions of "Elvis," "Elvis Presley" and "The King of Rock and Roll" as protected under their trademarks.
“This couldn’t hit at a worse time. It’s not a good thing,” said Clark County Clerk Lynn Goya, adding, “It might destroy a portion of our wedding industry. A number of people might lose their livelihood.” According to Goya, the city’s wedding industry generates $2 billion a year
“We are a family-run business, and now we’re hanging with the big dogs,” adds Kayla Collins, who operates LasVegasElvisWeddingChapel.com and the Little Chapel of Hearts with her husband. “That’s our bread and butter. I don’t get it. We were just hitting our stride again through COVID, then this happens.”
The letter states that an "infringing chapel" must comply with the terms of the document within a week or counsel would advise seeking legal action. For many, that date would have been last Friday (May 27). As of Monday (May 30), none of the chapels had reported any further contact.
According to the Review-Journal, some chapels are starting to try out alternatives, with one chapel having their Elvis impersonator change into a leather jacket, jeans and a fedora while serving up a "rock 'n' roll" themed ceremony.
Many of the chapels contacted have either specialized in or specifically used Elvis' name as part of their marketing. Viva Las Vegas/Vegas Weddings, the Elvis Chapel, Elvis Weddings and Las Vegas Elvis Chapel were among those initially contacted.
Kent Ripley, who has performed as Elvis for his Elvis Weddings business, commented, “They want to protect the Elvis brand. But what are they protecting by taking Elvis away from the public?”
“This could be very damaging to our industry,” Melody Willis-Williams, president of Vegas Weddings and Viva Las Vegas Weddings, added. “Most of us are small businesses, and we’re up against a superpower with a lot of money. It could kill us in lawyer fees to fight this. Elvis weddings are synonymous with Las Vegas. We keep Elvis alive.”
While wedding chapels could suffer a significant loss, the cease-and-desist is not expected to affect any Elvis-themed stage shows in Vegas as impersonating someone for a live performance such as a show is considered an exception under Nevada's rights of publicity law.
Mark Tratos, who helped write the statute, told the paper, “An Elvis show is a performer essentially entertaining others by re-creating that person onstage.”
He went on to elaborate, “The juxtaposition would be, deciding to go to a mechanic as Elvis. Is he really an entertainer, creating a story? Or simply using the Elvis name to essentially draw a customer who can say, ‘I had an Elvis guy fix my car.’ The question is, are you using it to attract attention versus storytelling?”
The Review-Journal notes that all 55 of the city’s free-standing chapels have the option of hiring an Elvis artist for a ceremony, even without “Elvis” in the business title.
And while Elvis' ties to Las Vegas weddings have certainly been well established over the years, it's safe to say a surge in popularity is one the horizon with Baz Luhrmann's Elvis biopic expected to hit movie screens on June 24, bringing "The King" back into the global spotlight once more.