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Netflix sued for ‘false advertising’ by law firm involved in Panama Papers leak

Law firm Mossack Fonseca, which was involved in the Panama Papers leak, has sued Netflix over its movie The Laundromat. In a court filing seen by Marketing, charges include “defamation, false light invasion of privacy, trademark infringement by dilution, and federal false advertising”.

The show, which aired in movie theatres starting 27 September and set to release on Netflix on 18 October, is said to defame and portray the founders Jurgen Mossack and Ramon Fonseca as “ruthless uncaring lawyers who are involved in money laundering, tax evasion, bribery and/or other criminal conduct”.

The filing highlighted the movie’s trailer with the opening clips that state the movie is “based on some real shit” and appear to be asking the question “how do 15 million millionaires in 200 countries stay rich with lawyers like these”. The company also claims that scenes of the two protagonists, playing the roles of Mossack and Fonseca, dressed in “flashy clothing” and “laughing sinisterly” have negative innuendo and easily attribute them as criminals.

Additionally, The Laundromat has unauthorised usage of Mossack Fonseca’s logo and diminishes and/dilute its goodwill in the process, said the filing. The company alleged that the trailer and movie utilised the logo unnecessarily, placing it in scenes that allow the viewer to associate it with very serious criminal and unethical behaviour. The logo is used approximately eight times between the trailer and the movie, according to the court filing.

“Clearly, the defendant uses the logo in its trailer to attract moviegoers and generate revenue, and in the movie to benefit economically from the reality the logo lends to its scenes,” said the company’s lawyer in the document. The manner in which the logo is used would also cause most viewers to have a mental association that would be “unsavoury, damaging, and/or unwelcomed” by the owners of the logo.

This comes as the anticipated release dates correspond with times during which Mossack and Fonseca will be defending criminal charges against them in Panama. Moreover, the charges were instituted notitia criminis – merely because the news and/or media alleged or implied that they were engaged in criminal activity. The document said: “The significance for this case is that new implications that arise in The Laundromat, will likely precipitate Panamanian prosecutors to investigate any accusation or criminal implications revealed therein.”

The company claims that the trailer and movie have “clearly defamed” the plaintiffs and cast them in the “false light of criminality”. The actions by Netflix are described as “knowing, willful, deliberate, and undertaken in bad faith” and the statements and/or representations made were “false and/or misleading, and designed solely to increase The Laundromat’s ticket and subscription sales, and otherwise enhance defendant’s revenues”.

[Marketing is proud to once again present PR Asia in Singapore this year. Join us for a series of exclusive case studies, interactive and thought-provoking discussions this 13-14 November in Singapore and discover the latest strategies, insights and groundbreaking ideas to elevate your PR practice. Register now.]

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