Las Vegas wedding chapels receive Elvis cease-and-desist letters
By Jennifer Henderson and Paradise Afshar, CNN
(CNN) -- Some wedding chapels in Las Vegas are receiving cease-and-desist letters demanding they stop using Elvis' image and likeness in their operations, according to two letters obtained by CNN.
In letters two chapels have received and shared with CNN, an attorney for Authentic Brands Group (ABG) says the businesses -- Vegas Weddings and Viva Las Vegas Weddings -- are infringing on intellectual property rights related to Elvis Presley, creating "the false impression that Elvis Presley Enterprises has approved, endorsed, or sponsored the Infringing Chapel. The Infringing Chapel is clearly trading off the Elvis Presley intellectual property rights, image, name and likeness without the consent of Elvis Presley Enterprises."
In 2013, Authentic Brands Group announced that it had purchased the intellectual property associated with the rock-and-roll icon from Core Media Group.
"As the guardians of the Elvis Presley estate, it is our responsibility to safeguard his legacy," ABG said in a statement Wednesday.
"This includes ensuring that all products, services, and advertisements utilizing Elvis' name, image, or likeness are officially licensed by Elvis Presley Enterprises," the statement said.
"The estate has strong relationships with official Elvis tribute artists, fan clubs, and festivals, as well as a robust global network of licensed merchandise partners. There is no intention to shut down chapels that offer Elvis packages in Las Vegas. We are seeking to partner with each of these small businesses to ensure that their use of Elvis' name, image, and likeness are officially licensed and authorized by the estate, so they can continue their operations."
The statement goes on to say that ABG recognizes that "Elvis is embedded into the fabric of Las Vegas history, and we are committed to protecting and expanding his legacy for generations to come."
Melody Willis-Williams, the president of Vegas Weddings and Viva Las Vegas Weddings, received letters from ABG last month and has since sought legal counsel.
"We believe the Las Vegas wedding industry has helped keep Elvis relevant for a whole generation of people," Willis-Williams said. "People come from all over the world for this."
Willis-Williams said several Elvis impersonators work at her properties, which also offers weddings officiated by Hollywood figures such as Dumbledore and Snape from the Harry Potter franchise, Batman and the Grinch.
Willis-Williams said she has gone back and forth with ABG in the past week. ABG is aiming for a licensing agreement, she said.
Clark County, where Las Vegas is located, issued its five-millionth marriage license on February 20, 2022, according to the website weddings.vegas.
"Elvis Presley long called Las Vegas his home and his name has become synonymous with Las Vegas weddings," Jason Whaley, president of the Vegas Wedding Chamber, said to CNN via email.
"The Vegas Wedding Chamber shares a concern that many of our chapels and (impersonators') livelihoods are being targeted, especially as many are still trying to recover financially from the hurdles we all endured with COVID shutdowns. We'll continue to focus on the situation and look forward to a resolution that will not negatively impact the Las Vegas wedding economy or the Elvis wedding experience that so many couples travel to Las Vegas to be part of."
Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman also raised concerns over the letters.
"Our wedding industry has been struggling through the pandemic and the economic devastation it has caused," Goodman said in a statement to CNN. "These obviously are not people or a company that give a hoot about this community or its people."
Clark County Clerk Lynn Marie Goya echoed those feelings.
"As other entertainers fade from the public consciousness, Elvis' spirit continues to live on in Las Vegas. Couples come from all over the world to add a bit of the Elvis charm to their lives. Elvis weddings have been around for decades and a number of businesses have built their livelihoods around sharing Elvis' joy of living with couples," Goya said in a statement to CNN.
"It will be a sad day for Las Vegas -- and the world -- if he truly leaves the building."
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