May 02, 2002
The Health Insurance Association of America (HIAA) said on Thursday that it has filed a lawsuit aimed at blocking television advertisements that feature characters the group believes it owns.
The ads, sponsored by the organization CuresNow, are aimed at defeating a comprehensive cloning ban bill set for a Senate floor vote in the coming weeks. They feature a middle-aged couple named Harry and Louise expressing doubts about the bill. In one of the spots, Louise says the legislation could "[put] scientists in jail for working to cure our niece's diabetes."
HIAA is not taking a position for or against the cloning bill, which would ban all human cloning, including procedures undertaken for therapeutic purposes. But it has expressed strong opposition to the ads, which it claims have "hijacked" its corporate identity for a cause that's not its own.
Harry and Louise first appeared in HIAA television advertisements that helped doom President Clinton's health reform plan nearly a decade ago and have since been used by the insurance trade group in print, broadcast and Internet campaigns to promote its point of view on various issues, the association said on Thursday.
The characters in the CuresNow ads "are indistinguishable" from the Harry and Louise who appear in HIAA's promotions, the trade group said. The ads are produced by the same firm, Goddard-Claussen, and feature the same actors.
Goddard-Claussen Founding Partner Ben Goddard said in a recent statement that the actors "agreed to appear in the ads because of their strong personal beliefs that non-reproductive or therapeutic cloning offers the potential to cure Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, diabetes, cancer, spinal cord injuries and other debilitating diseases affecting 100 million Americans."
Goddard said that the actors -- whose real names are Harry and Louise -- were only under contract to HIAA for two years following the original 1993-94 campaign, and that the association never trademarked the "Harry and Louise" name. He also said that actress Louise Caire Clark, who is his wife, is donating her union-scale fee to CuresNow.
In announcing its lawsuit, which seeks to block CuresNow from using the characters on television or on the Internet, HIAA said that it asked that the ads be pulled but was refused.
The group noted that it has launched a Web site, www.harryandlouise.org,
and an advertising campaign in the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call designed
to highlight its "long-established ties to the 'Harry and Louse' characters."
The Web site features an archive of HIAA Harry and Louise ads.
© 2002 Reuters Ltd