Update: In a statement to Billboard, Authentic Brands Group said they don’t intend to ban Elvis impersonators, but are instead requesting that chapels get licenses to continue their schtick.
The Las Vegas tourist industry is taking a pretty big hit this week, as the licensing company that handles Elvis Presley’s estate has blocked the city’s wedding chapels from using his likeness in their ceremonies.
As the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports, Authentic Brands Group (ABG), the company that oversees all Elvis-related merchandise, sent cease-and-desist letters to multiple Sin City chapels in May, arguing that unauthorized use of “Presley’s name, likeness, voice image, and other elements” constitute trademark infringement. The company counts “Elvis, “Elvis Presley,” and “The King of Rock and Roll” among its trademarks.
Vegas’ city’s wedding industry generates $2 billion a year, and Elvis-themed weddings are especially popular. Naturally, then, these cease-and-desist orders have worried many of Vegas’ wedding chapels, who told the Review-Journal that the orders would negatively affect employees’ livelihoods. However, ABG says impersonators can continue to appear at weddings so long as they obtain the proper trademark licensing.
“The estate has strong relationships with official Elvis tribute artists, fan clubs and festivals, as well as a robust global network of licensed merchandise partners,” the company told Billboard. “There is no intention to shut down chapels that offer Elvis packages in Las Vegas. We are seeking to partner with each of these small businesses to ensure that their use of Elvis’ name, image and likeness are officially licensed and authorized by the estate, so they can continue their operations.”
While there may now be restrictions on Elvis impersonations at wedding chapels, Mark Tratos, a local attorney who helped write ABG’s cease-and-desist letters, said Elvis-themed stage shows should not be affected by the order because impersonations within live shows are protected under Vegas’ “right of publicity” statute.
Elvis’ likeness is certainly getting around these days, as Baz Luhrmann has readied a new biopic about the King. Plus, last year RCA/Legacy Recordings unveiled Elvis: Back in Nashville, a CD box set of the artist’s final Nashville studio sessions.