Promoter claims right to use Twainr's name and image

A national company that licenses the names and images of the famous for commercial use is staking its claim on Comstock scribe Mark Twain.

CMG Worldwide represents the families and estates of celebrities ranging from Babe Ruth and Marilyn Monroe to Charles Atlas and the cartoon cat Garfield.

The company wants the Carson City Convention & Visitor's Bureau to stop using Twain's name or image in any materials promoting the community.

"We received a letter from CMG in the beginning of November asking us to cease and desist using the Mark Twain stuff," bureau executive director Candy Duncan said Friday. She said the company employs a clipping service that sent it a Carson City ad from a travel agent trade publication.

"They're out of Indianapolis. I'm wondering what connection Indiana has to Mark Twain," Duncan said.

She said the bureau has received no indication that CMG has any connection to the family of Samuel Clemens, who used Mark Twain as his pen name when he wrote for the Territorial Enterprise of Virginia City and the Nevada Appeal in the 1860s.

The bureau's attorney, Louis Doescher, is researching the issue and has worked with a copyright attorney to try to sort out the rights, Duncan said.

"They wrote back to CMG's attorney, Jonathan Faber, and asked him to prove that he's representing Mark Twain's trust," Duncan said. She said neither the attorneys nor the bureau has heard back from CMG.

When the Nevada Appeal contacted CMG's Hollywood, Calif., office Friday afternoon for comment, the reporter was referred to a New York City public relations firm and no comment could be obtained. The Indianapolis office was closed at the time.

Duncan said the attorneys did learn that, while Nevada permits a family or estate to retain rights to a person's name or image for 50 years after death, Indiana laws extends those rights for 100 years. Clemens died in 1910.

But she questioned why there is any fuss about using facts regarding a historical figure to promote an area's history.

"I could understand it if we were trying to sell Mark Twain underwear," Duncan said.

Ironically, perhaps, two clothing companies have official trademarks to produce Mark Twain-branded clothing. Both make negligees, as well as shirts. Their trademark registrations date from the 1920s and '30s.

CMG's trademark paperwork, though, was not filed until 1996, according to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's Web site. The office has records of 11 Mark Twain trademark registrations. Only CMG's registration has not been finalized and the company has not been issued a trademark registration number, according to the reports available on the PTO Web site.

None of the trademark registrations claim any connection with any descendant of Clemens.

But the CMG record lists the owner as "Mark Twain Foundation Trust, composed of Richard A. Watson, a U.S. citizen and Chase Manhattan Bank, a New York Corporation." The address given is for CMG's Indianapolis office.

Other items for which trademark registrations have been granted are cigars, whiskey, a travel tour, a railroad train and actor Hal Holbrook's theatrical impersonation of Twain called "Mark Twain Tonight!"

Holbrook trademarked the use of Twain's name for theater and television impersonations in 1971. He performed the show on the Piper's Opera House Stage in 1981 and is scheduled bring it back to the same venue in December.

No other entertainers who portray Twain, such as Incline Village's McAvoy Layne, have registered the trademark.

But CMG's own Web site's Mark Twain section has links that, with a few clicks, take a surfer to a list of Twain impersonators. Layne's performance schedule is easily located, showing that Layne was out of the area over weekend with performances and unavailable to comment for this article.

The list included the "Virtual Mark Twain," a computer animated incarnation that can be engaged to hype products and services at trade shows or meetings. Layne provides the voice and facial expressions for "Virtual Mark Twain's" appearances.

Other links on CMG's Web site connect to vendors of Twain books, photos, T-shirts and educational resources. The standard trademark symbol () is not prominent on any of those sites.

Twain trademarks, products, owners, locations and registration dates, in the order listed on the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's Website:

-- Mark Twain Vacations, vacations, the Delta Queen Steamboat Co., New Orleans, La., 05/25/99

-- Mark Twain Zephyr, railroad train, Mark Twain Zephyr Inc., Oak Brook, Ill., 11/27/90

-- Mark Twain, wine, Cotel Pty. Ltd., Adelaide, Australia, 10/25/88

-- Mark Twain, banking services, Mark Twain Bancshares, St. Louis, Mo., 05/04/82

-- "Mark Twain Tonight!", theater and television impersonations, Hal Holbrook, Los Angeles, Calif., 07/10/73

-- Mark Twain, whiskey, Heaven Hill Distilleries Inc., Bardstown, Ky., 05/16/67

-- Mark Twain, clothing, Elder Manufacturing Co., St. Louis, Mo., 12/27/38

-- Mark Twain Known To Everyone - Liked By All, restaurant, Wolf Brothers & Co., Red Lion, Penn., 09/08/31

-- Mark Twain, clothing, Hall, Hartwell & Co., New York, N.Y., 05/15/23

-- Mark Twain, fresh citrus fruits, Blue Banner Co. Inc., Riverside, Calif., 10/08/18

-- Mark Twain, promotion of goods and services, Mark Twain Foundation Trust, Indianapolis, Ind., no registration date or number assigned.


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