Case of the Day: Clint Eastwood v. Mediatonas UAB

Clint Eastwood

The case of the day is Clint Eastwood v. Mediatonas UAB (C.D. Cal. 2021). Clint Eastwood accused the defendant, Mediatonas, a Lithuanian company, of using his name and likeness to promote and sell cannabidiol products. He sought leave to serve Mediatonas with process by email. I was alerted to the case by a colleague who was unhappy with the ruling. After all, Lithuania, a party to the Service Convention, has objected to service by postal channels (and indeed, to any method of service under Article 10 of the Convention), and thus there is no provision of the Convention that authorizes or at least permits service by email. Since the Convention is exclusive, the decision is clearly wrong. Grr!

That is all 100% correct. I’ve probably written dozens of posts that make just this point. However, look at things from Clint Eastwood’s lawyer’s perspective. There are a ton of cases (okay, district court cases) that say that service by email in these circumstances is permissible. So who cares if, in the abstract, those cases are wrong? They are precedent. The lawyer’s goal, after all, is to effect service of process quickly and without too much fuss, not to worry about what the law should be in principle. I decline to comment on what advice I have given to lawyers and litigants in this situation!

But even the most practical, workaday lawyer also needs to consider the endgame. Is the endgame to collect damages in the United States? Is the endgame to get social media companies or internet service providers in the United States to remove the offending content from their servers? Maybe. But if, on the other hand, the goal is to enforce the judgment abroad, then you have to ask what the foreign court will do when faced with a US judgment based on bad service. The quick and easy path may turn out to be too quick and easy.

2 responses to “Case of the Day: Clint Eastwood v. Mediatonas UAB”

  1. kotodama

    I can’t imagine Clint Eastwood has much need of collecting damages here or abroad, or that this rando Lithuanian company would have much ability to satisfy a big judgment like $6m here.

    As for takedowns on search engines and social media, since all the big players like Google and Facebook are U.S.-based anyway, isn’t a U.S. judgment quite useful on that front? If he can’t do something against rando Lithuanian search engines or social media companies, who are bit players anyway, it doesn’t seem like that big a deal.

    Since this is a TM or at least TM-adjacent claim, I also think you sort of have to be vigilant about pursuing infringers once they come to your attention. Otherwise you may risk vulnerability to some equitable defenses like estoppel, laches, waiver, etc. if you are lax with enforcement on repeated occasions.

    Finally, although I’ll never be in that situation, I imagine that if I were a very rich celebrity and scammers were falsely using my identity to hock their products, I’d be quite furious. And, of course having the funds to do so, I would go after them just on principle, if nothing else.

    PS: According to this article, Eastwood served the defendants by Skype too!

    1. Ted Folkman

      Probably true in this case, but I am making a broader point about how to think about service by alternate means in such cases.

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