Recent Broward Law Blog Features

Sunday, December 6, 2009

West Virginia Man Sues Over Commercial Use of Mugshot



A man whose mugshot won a measure of Internet fame is planning to sue companies he says are profiting from the image.

Patrick Tribett was arrested in Bellaire, Ohio, in 2005. Police say he had been huffing the fumes from gold spraypaint, and the lower half of his face was golden in his mugshot.

New Martinsville lawyer H. John Rogers says the image has appeared on T-shirts, coffee mugs and even a billboard in Europe. Rogers says he's preparing lawsuits against four companies for using Tribett's image for financial gain.

Tribett's photo, as you can see above, shows his face partially covered with gold spray paint following his 'huffing'. It appeared in places like The Smoking Gun, which collects notable mug shots. It immediately became an "iconic mug shot" that gained him "worldwide infamy."

An entire Tribett mug shot paraphernalia marketplace then developed, with items such as T-shirts and coffee mugs being offered up on Amazon.com, Cafe Press and Hot Toys, a Chinese manufacturer. TSG reports that T-shirts with Tribett's iconic photo are currently being sold on Zazzle.com for about $20.

In other words, his commercial likeness is being appropriated for another's pecuniary use. Can't do that. Gotta compensate the dude, right? Well, we are about to find out. I suppose if I was doing one of those for profit totally self indulging legal blogs this is where I would come in and say the "law offices of Kent and Cormican represent you in protecting your intellectual copyright." Uh, don't count on it. If you are stupid enough to get yourself arrested sniffing super glue and it sticks to your nose, call a surgeon, not a lawyer.

What about that Florida law which says you cannot commercially profit from your crimes? Would that estop Tribett from collecting damages in Florida? Ric Rosenbaum had to litigate that issue when Danny Rolling, a Gainesville killer, was trying to sell some of his paintings.

Well, Mr. Tribett, you never should have been sniffing those fumes, but now the spray may indeed enrich you.

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