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Tuesday, 3 October, 2000, 09:06 GMT 10:06 UK
Cheers stars toast court success
The cast of Cheers
Cheers: the stars of the sitcom were household names
Actors George Wendt and John Ratzenberger, better known as Cheers barflies Norm and Cliff, have won the latest round of their dispute with the sitcom's makers Paramount.

The US Supreme Court has allowed the two actors to sue over the use of two robots which, they claim, exploit the Cheers characters they helped create.

Actor George Wendt
George Wendt objects to the use of "robot likeness"
Paramount and Host International want to help establish a series of Cheers-style airport bars with two robotic barflies, called Bob and Hank.

Host was licensed by Paramount Pictures to create the bars in several airports across the United States and in New Zealand.

Wendt and Ratzenberger claim the robots resemble them and as such amounts to unauthorised use of their likenesses, violating a Californian right-to-publicity law.

The legislation prohibits the sale of products using "another's name, signature, photograph, or likeness in any manner" without the individual's permission.

John Ratzenberger
John Ratzenberger played postman Cliff

The justices, without any comment, upheld a ruling by a Californian court that reinstated the lawsuit by the two actors, after a Los Angeles judge had dismissed it.

The case could have huge implications for the entertainment industry.

Legal observers have pointed out that if the studio were to eventually win the case it could mean, for example, Warner Brothers would be within its legal rights to use Harrison Ford's face to sell cigarettes or beer as long as he was dressed as Indiana Jones.

"The crux of the matter is whether the robot characters are part of the Paramount television show Cheers or whether they portray the actors themselves," William Rintalla, a solicitor for Host International said.

See also:

18 May 00 | Entertainment
Eagles sue California restaurant
05 May 00 | Entertainment
Spielberg sued over Soldiers film
30 Aug 00 | Entertainment
Legal storm over Clooney drama
26 Sep 00 | Entertainment
No Cheers in court brawl
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