Former Playmate of the Year wins another battle against Playboy.
February 7, 2002 5:26 PM   Subscribe

Former Playmate of the Year wins another battle against Playboy. 1981 POY, Terri Welles has been fighting Playboy magazine for the last four years over the fact that she wants to mention the world famous nudie mag's name on her (nude) web site, in her bio, and in her meta tags.

Apparently Hef's lawyers seem to think this is a bad thing, claiming that it would infinge on the Playboy trademark. Monday the appeals judge disagreed. My question is, why would something like this get Hef in such a huff?
posted by tsarfan (17 comments total)
maybe he doesn't want to be associated with pornography?
posted by mcsweetie at 5:33 PM on February 7, 2002

Actually nowadays I think it's more Hef's daughter who's the killjoy. Talk about a magazine and brand needing an overhaul.
posted by owillis at 5:35 PM on February 7, 2002

I gotta say, lovely expression on Ms. Welles face on the top page of her site. She looks like she's undergoing a colonoscopy. erotic.
posted by jonmc at 5:38 PM on February 7, 2002

It's probably not "pornography", but the "erotica" that might be bothering him...and the fact that Terri Welles turns 46 this year.
She really should stop posing.
posted by jacobw at 5:42 PM on February 7, 2002

"She really should stop posing."

Why? Not everyone is interested in 19-year-olds. I think Ms. Welles looks pretty damned good for 46. Or 36. Or whatever.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 5:49 PM on February 7, 2002

wow, crash, between this post and yours on the "sit-in" in Austin, it seems to Boobie Day on MeFi. Not that I'm complaining mind you, as far as I'm concerned everyday is Boobie Day.
posted by jonmc at 6:04 PM on February 7, 2002

Seems strange to me. It's almost like it's part of her resume.
  • 1974 - Graduated High School
  • 1975 to 1977 - Worked at Wendy's.
  • 1977 to 1980 - Worked at doctor's office.
  • 1981 - Playboy Playmate of the Year
Stupid to think that we can't post are own accomplishments, no matter how varied they may be.
posted by rathikd at 6:14 PM on February 7, 2002

My question is, why would something like this get Hef in such a huff?
Last time this came up (the same gal) Playboys lawyers said were concerned that there was no limit to when someone could use Playboy in metatags (and it is abused). If you've modelled in Playboy it seems fair to use it. But if you were a photographer who took a few photos in 1974 do you get the same rights? What about a set designer? Anyone ever paid by Playboy gets to use their name to describe a competitors site?

You can see Playboy's sticky situation.
posted by holloway at 6:38 PM on February 7, 2002

My question is, why would something like this get Hef in such a huff?

Trademark®, tsarfan, trademark.

The trademark dilution law known to netizens for its domain-name cybersquatting provisions also wrote into the US Code for the first time a 7-part test of dilution that had been used in case law since the 1960s. (C)(1)(A-H). It seems likely that the Welles/Playboy case, which has been going on for some time, is under the pre-existing law, which is essentially similar. But that's just the means that Playboy or a brand owner would use to defend their mark -- the reason they would is contained in the tradmark babandonment provisions. The key part here is the language permitting someone to challenge a brand registration:

At any time in the case of a certification mark on the ground that the registrant (A) does not control, or is not able legitimately to exercise control over, the use of such mark, or (B) engages in the production or marketing of any goods or services to which the certification mark is applied, or (C) permits the use of the certification mark for purposes other than to certify, or (D) discriminately refuses to certify or to continue to certify the goods or services of any person who maintains the standards or conditions which such mark certifies....

Especially parts A and C are at risk. If Playboy did not bring suit against instances of dilution, then other persons could legitimately argue under A that Playboy no longer controlled the mark or under C permitted its use for non-brand-related purposes. If successful the registration of the Playboy mark would be cancelled and the name would become generic.

Does this happen? Not often. But ask the owners of aspirin or escalator if they're happy for not protecting their trademark.

Honestly, the marks Playboy® and Playmate® are just about the most valuable items that the Playboy Corporation owns. Allowing them to pass into the generic realm would be a disaster for the company, and thus it is imperative under the law that they have their attorneys keep track of any use of the mark that is not "under their control" or "used to certify". This may be as simple as a lawyer letter (which alone seems to get a lot of overly-sensitive netizens' panties in a twist) or proceed to lawsuit in the case of continued perceived infringement.

Now, noting that she's been in Playboy is presumably fair use (and has now been ruled as such). This would get picked up by search engines, which is bad enough from Playboy's perspective. But the real problem for Welles was that she put it in her metatags -- and generally courts have ruled that if you do not own a mark you cannot use it in metatags without permission. Playboy is surely going to appeal this ruling, particularly on the metatag point, because it would then be all too easy for other websites to argue that if Welles can have the metatag, they can too. Naturally this means that search engine results on "playboy" will point to places other than, which is clearly a dilution of the brand the more it spreads.

Although I think the ruling here was common-sensical, there's much in this case for any trademark owner to be concerned over. And it's not going to stop dilution lawsuits, because the law hasn't changed.
posted by dhartung at 6:40 PM on February 7, 2002

Speaking of which, that Frontline about porn is on in 10 minutes.
posted by McBain at 6:51 PM on February 7, 2002

why would something like this get Hef in such a huff?

Maybe cuz Hef only have half a huff.
posted by billder at 6:52 PM on February 7, 2002

Oh and, she looks incredible for her age.
posted by McBain at 6:53 PM on February 7, 2002

Maybe she's one of the many who slept with Hef, and daughter (CEO of Playboy) has a grudge against them all??
posted by BlueScreen at 7:21 PM on February 7, 2002

BlueScreen: That would take (at minimum) nine times as much time as budget meetings alone, meaning that Christie would have to give up her day job. Her new job, meantime, would be the proverbial "doing the work of two people," type, only "63" would replace "two."
posted by raysmj at 7:35 PM on February 7, 2002

A few years back, PLAYBOY ran a piece about why they made personal sites remove any PLAYBOY photos (I don't feel like hunting through back issues all night for it so I'm a little sketchy) though it made plenty of people flaming mad; what is comes down to is they will not cut anyone any slack over the use of anything PLAYBOY has trademarked or copyrighted. They have a point, I think.
Despite losing the appeal, it wouldn't surprise me if they kept pushing, but as the court says, if Michael Jordan had a site mentioning he was an ex-Chicago Bull, that did not imply endorsement of the site by the Bulls.
She doesn't have much to boast of (besides her physical endowments) besides her faded glory. OTOH she's trying to make a buck on it, unlike the guy who wants to just wants to post his favorite Centerfold on his fan site. But this just generates more publicity for her, despite the legal bills.
posted by StOne at 9:44 PM on February 7, 2002

A Hef in a huff is worth two in the buff.
posted by rodii at 10:26 PM on February 7, 2002

Not to beat an aging woman down, but that chick is nasty.

Blondified, pluckified, skinnified, tannified, nastified.

Not that I'm all about barely-legal teens, but... Blech.
posted by scarabic at 11:05 PM on February 8, 2002

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