Toyota Takes Aim at Eboys

GENEVA, Switzerland - Toyota Motors Sales USA Inc. is threatening legal action against a Geneva-based gay adult entertainment company unless it divests itself of any and all references to the Toyota-trademarked "Lexus" name.

Eboys Studio S.A.
owner and chief executive officer Daniel Grangier said on Nov. 7 he received a letter in which Washington, D.C.-based attorney Eric T. Fingerhut, representing Toyota, accused Eboys of violating American trademark law and tarnishing Toyota's reputation by allowing one of its stars to use the name Lexus in adult-entertainment products distributed in the U.S. Lexus, who Grangier said is one of Eboys' most popular stars, appears in SpunkLand and CumEaters and is featured on the SpunkLand box cover.

The letter demanded Eboys Studio "(1) immediately and permanently cease all use of ‘Lexus' in connection with adult films, (2) immediately de-list the two DVDs from the website and its affiliates and (3) immediately remove all DVD packaging displaying the name ‘Lexus.'" In addition, Eboys was exhorted to ensure the offending films no longer are advertised or sold by Eboys' customers.

If the studio does not comply, Fingerhut stated in the letter, "Toyota may have no choice but to take legal action in order to protect its trademark rights."

Grangier said his first reaction to the letter was amusement.

"When I received this letter, at first I was laughing," he said. "Our model selected his stage name in reference to the god Lexus from Greek mythology. At no time did he intend to ‘steal' the name of a luxury car. I'm an adult movie producer and not specialized in trademarks, but what gives the right to a U.S. company to trademark the name of a Greek god and prohibit its use for any other line of business worldwide? Eboys Studio produces adult movies and is obviously unrelated to Toyota's industry. Our model Lexus has the face and body of a god; the use of a Greek god's name was a great choice."

After speaking with Eboys' attorney, however, Grangier's mood changed.

"I'm not laughing anymore," he said. "This is a serious matter. Toyota Motors is very serious about this, and it's not the first time they have sued an adult business or a porn star regarding a trademark."

In fact, photographer Suze Randall in 2004 responded with similar disbelief when a Toyota attorney sent her a letter demanding she discontinue making available her images of former Vivid contract girl Lexus Locklear. In the 1990s, Locklear starred in high-profile adult movies like Debbie Does Dallas: The Next Generation and Mobster's Wife. In 2006, LexusCash, the affiliate program for the site of an amateur adult model who used the stage name Lexus, also received a letter from Fingerhut. Although owner Mario Mendoza vowed to fight Toyota, the LexusCash website disappeared from the Web.

Grangier is not certain how his company will respond to Toyota's demands.

"Our attorney, Marcus Batista, is now in negotiation with Toyota's legal team regarding this issue," he said. "In a letter [dated] Nov. 21, we have informed that Eboys Studio [will] comply with some of Toyota's demands, but we will not ask for a worldwide recall of SpunkLand and CumEaters. This [would] be very damaging for Eboys Studio and our customers.

"The movie CumEaters was one of our biggest hits and made huge profits on AEBN. A recall for those two titles will cost at least $100,000 or more. If Eboys Studio and Toyota Motors cannot reach an agreement, Eboys Studio will have no other choice but to go to legal action.

"We will defend our case and our rights," Grangier added. "A judge would have to decide if such trademark can prohibit us to use the name of a Greek god in our movies."

Grangier offered a piece of advice to Eboys customers, while admitting it might be a good idea for them to check with their own attorneys.

"If you have SpunkLand and CumEaters in stock, you do not have to worry," he said. "You can keep selling those movies. We will fight for what we think is an ‘abusive trademark' issue, and our attorneys will defend and protect Eboys Studio's rights."