The Work

November 11, 2009 1:28 PM

Seyfarth Reps Playboy in Spat with Racy Lawyer

Posted by Zach Lowe

Seyfarth Shaw is advising Playboy in a trademark lawsuit against a Chicago-area attorney who once posed nude for the magazine and wrote an advice column before her contract with Playboy was terminated amid allegations of sexual harassment, according to court records and this story in the Chicago Tribune.

Jason Stiehl, a senior associate at Seyfarth identified on the complaint as the lead lawyer in the case, declined to comment and referred inquiries to a Playboy spokeswoman. The spokeswoman was not immediately available for comment. (Playboy Enterprises, like Seyfarth, is headquartered in Chicago. The firm has a long history of doing IP work for Playboy, and a current Playboy assistant general counsel is a Seyfarth alum.)

The complaint (available for download below) accuses the lawyer-model-advice columnist, Corri Fetman, of breaching her freelance contract and violating trademark law by trying to trademark the phrase "Lawyer of Love" with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in August. The phrase was the name of her short-lived advice column, which ran from March 2008 to July 2008, when the magazine ended Fetman's writing gig. She has since sued Playboy in state court, accusing an executive of sexual harassment, according to the Tribune. Playboy's complaint, filed Monday in federal trial court, says Playboy effectively owned a common law trademark over the Lawyer of Love phrase and claims that Fetman gave up any IP claims in her freelance agreement.

How did Fetman land the columnist post at Playboy? She became well-known in the Chicago area after advertising her law practice on a billboard featuring herself in lingerie next to a shirtless, well-built man, the Tribune says. (The man turned out to be her personal trainer.) The ad's tag line: "Life's short. Get a divorce." 

Her sexual harassment suit is pending.

One piece of notable trivia from the complaint: Playboy claims that it was "the first magazine with an online presence," a claim that seems difficult to confirm but sufficiently vague (what is an "online presence"?) to be defensible. 

Download Playboy Complaint

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