By: Dunlap Bennett & Ludwig  [6/6/22]

At least two chapels in Vegas have received cease-and-desist letters, asking them to refrain from using Elvis’s name, image, and likeness. Attorneys sent the letters, accusing the chapels of infringing intellectual property rights related to Elvis Presley and creating “the false impression that Elvis Presley Enterprises has approved, endorsed, or sponsored the Infringing Chapel.”[1]

In short, the chapels are accused of profiting off Elvis Presley’s image. Although Vegas marriages and Elvis have been associated together since as early as the 1960’s, Elvis Presley Enterprises claims their permission is needed, and they’re seeking a licensing agreement.

What is Elvis Presley Enterprises and who owns it?

Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc. is a corporate entity to conduct business and manage assets previously belonging to Elvis, including Graceland. After Elvis’s passing, he left his possessions and estate in a trust for his family. The entity was formed to help manage that inheritance. The trust, and the assets within it, have a complicated history including near bankruptcy. This ultimately resulted in the opening of Graceland to the public, which in turn resulted in a large expansion of assets within the trust. Over time, assets in the trust, including portions of Elvis’s intellectual property rights, were sold off. Those rights eventually landed with Authentic Brands Group (AGB).

AGB owns approximately 85% of Elvis Presley Enterprises with Lisa Marie Presley, Elvis’s only child, owning the remaining 15%. The group purchased Elvis’s intellectual property rights in 2013 for an undisclosed amount and now claims to be the guardians of the Elvis Presley estate with the responsibility to safeguard his legacy. At the time of the purchase, Forbes ranked Elvis Presley as the second highest-earning dead celebrity, earning approximately $55 million a year, only second to Michael Jackson. [2] AGB also oversees the estates of other big names including Marilyn Monroe and Muhammad Ali. [3]

This isn’t the first time, and likely not the last, that Elvis Presley Enterprises will attempt to control Elvis’s image. The Enterprise claims responsibility for helping make Elvis the cultural icon he is today, threatening suit against those who may tarnish Elvis’s image. For example, the group “absolutely refuses to license a product picturing an overweight Elvis.” [4]

So how can this group be responsible for safeguarding Elvis’s legacy? Wouldn’t Elvis’s family be in charge of that? In short, those rights (at least a portion of those rights) were sold off and now vest with AGB. AGB now claims that they are owners of Elvis’s name, image, and likeness.

What does ‘Name, Image, and Likeness’ mean?

Name, image, and likeness (NIL) are components of a person’s right of publicity, the right of an individual to control commercial use of their public image or components thereof. Those components, in addition to just name, image, and likeness, also include nickname, signature, social media account, any symbol, name, or design that readily identifies them or any combination thereof. To keep it short, the collection of those rights is just referred to as NIL.

Famously, one of the most recent examples of NIL in the media surrounds the NCAA. NCAA athletes are now able to profit off their NIL if it’s done in accordance with state laws where the school is located.

Laws regarding an individual’s right to publicity and their NIL are primarily governed by state laws and, hence, vary from state to state. For example, Pennsylvania does not allow a student athlete to earn compensation from their NIL in connection with alcohol, adult entertainment, casinos, tobacco, and various other activities.

So, can I still have an Elvis wedding in Vegas?

As of right now, there are still plenty of chapels in Vegas performing Elvis-themed weddings. No lawsuits have been filed, but those suits may be on the horizon if a deal can’t be made.

Sadly, this may put a stop to Elvis-themed weddings. Though, it’s more likely a few chapels will agree to a license, and the show will go on.

If you want to protect your NIL or have concerns that someone may be commercializing your NIL without your permission, reach out to us at Dunlap, Bennett, and Ludwig.

For more information on how Dunlap Bennett & Ludwig can help you with your legal needs, contact us by calling 800-747-9354 or emailing clientservices@dbllawyers.com.


[1] https://www.cnn.com/travel/article/vegas-wedding-chapels-elvis-impersonators/index.html

[2] https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/general-news/elvis-presleys-rights-sold-authentic-657924/

[3] https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2022/jun/02/las-vegas-chapels-stop-using-elvis-weddings

[4] Sean O’Neal, Elvis Inc.: The Fall and Rise of the Presley Empire (1997)


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Posted in: Intellectual Property - Patents, Litigation & Disputes

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