HARTFORD (CN) - Judith Sheindlin, who plays Judge Judy on TV, sued a personal injury attorney and his firm for using her likeness in a television commercial.
Sheindlin and her attorneys filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against John Haymond and Haymond Law on Wednesday in Federal Court.
The complaint states that Haymond promoted his business "by pretending that Sheindlin had sponsored, endorsed, or is associated with their services," though she has refrained from engaging in personal endorsements for the 18 years she's been on television.
The show is so popular that "(f)or the past four seasons, Judge Judy has been daytime television's number one rated show in the United States," the complaint states.
A 2013 Reader's Digest survey ranked Sheindlin one of the "100 Most Trusted Americans."
The commercials Sheindlin complains about alternate "actual clips of Sheindlin from the Judge Judy series with clips of Mr. Haymond and his daughters."
The commercials "have aired repeatedly on WCTX-TV in New Haven/Hartford, Connecticut and on WWLP-TV in Springfield, Massachusetts during each station's broadcast of the 'Judge Judy' series," according to the complaint.
Sheindlin claims that CBS-TV gave notice to the defendants in March 2013 that the ads were not permitted. In April 2013, Haymond Law removed the unauthorized ads from its website and YouTube channel, the complaint states.
"Nevertheless, as recently as March 6, 2014, the unauthorized advertisements reappeared on local television stations," according to the complaint.
Judge Judy says that by "trading, without consent or authorization, on Sheindlin's well-known persona, the Haymond defendants have irreparably harmed and damaged Sheindlin's hard-earned professional and artistic reputation, dignity, and prestige. The Haymond defendants' unlawful use of Sheindlin's likeness is particularly egregious and damaging because Sheindlin has deliberately chosen not to endorse any products or services unrelated to the 'Judge Judy' series."
Sheindlin seeks disgorgement of profits, an injunction against any more broadcasts, and punitive damages for false endorsement, deceptive trade, and misappropriation of her likeness and publicity rights.
She is represented by Kevin Smith and James Glasser with Wiggin and Dana in New Haven.