James Dean Inc. has a problem with @JamesDean. The Twitter account bearing the late actor's name has been used by an anonymous James Dean fan since 2009, and now James Dean Inc., which represents the actor's heirs, wants the Twitter handle. It's suing Twitter, the owner of the account, and four other "John Doe" defendants whose Twitter accounts use other forms of Dean's name or image, the Indianapolis Star reports. Right now, @JamesDean operates as "strictly a fan account," and the unnamed owner says he has never tried to make money off it.
Dean's name and likeness are both trademarked by James Dean Inc., which says they're being used without authorization in these cases. "This is a first-of-its-kind case, as far as I know," says one expert, noting that the federal Anti-Cybersquatting Piracy Act keeps people from using celebrity's names as web domains without an OK, but does not cover Twitter handles. Twitter officials say they don't have a "username reservation policy," and that the @JamesDean account does not violate its Trademark Policy because it's "not being used in a way that is misleading or confusing with regard to its brand, location, or business affiliation." Officials at CMG Worldwide, which runs James Dean Inc., tell the Hollywood Reporter that before suing, they tried for a year to get Twitter to shut down @JamesDean. (Read more James Dean stories.)