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Small Business Sues PR Firm & Getty Images

LOS ANGELES (CN) - A supplement maker sued a public relations firm and Getty Images, claiming its fledgling business tanked when Jennifer Love Hewitt sued it for publicity rights after it paid for the right to use the actress' pictures in advertisements.

Marz Sprays, which makes oral sprays infused with vitamins and minerals, sued Getty Images dba Wireimage on Feb. 5 in Superior Court, demanding $1 million for breach of contract and fraud.

In the same complaint Marz also sued Kari Feinstein and Michael McGuiness, who do business as Feinstein McGuinness Public Relations.

"We think this happens to a lot of people," Marz's attorney Arthur Aaronson told Courthouse News. "Small businesses pay thousands to get photos of celebrities using their products, but then celebrities come out of the woodwork to say, 'Hold on, we don't like that.' It's a real problem."

Marz says in the lawsuit that Feinstein and McGuiness invited it to a May 2012 "gifting suite" called the Style Lounge.

In a gifting suite, businesses rent booths from promoters, who have arranged for celebrities to visit the booths to get free products.

Marz says it paid "a substantial consideration" to Feinstein and McGuiness, which said it had hired Getty Images to photograph the event, and that Getty had the right to license the photos for Marz to use in ads.

But Marz says Feinstein and McGuiness "conspired with Getty to hustle these photography packages" without obtaining permission from the celebrities for the use of their photos.

It says it did not find out it was a fraud until Love Hewitt's attorney told it to remove her photos from the Marz website.

Marz says it removed the photos immediately, but Love Hewitt sued anyway, after which a number of its contacts stopped working with it because of the bad publicity.

Getty Images spokeswoman Sarah Lochting said the company does not comment on pending litigation.

Aaronson, of Encino, said Marz had momentum before the lawsuit, that it had been on the TV show "Shark Tank," and had wholesale accounts with Walmart and Walgreens.

But that changed when Love Hewitt sued, though Aaronson said the suit was resolved amicably.

"When lawsuit was filed, everything came to a screeching halt," Aaronson said. "Hopefully they will survive. But we just don't know."

Marz seeks damages for breach of contract, fraud and negligent misrepresentation.

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