Subject of J. Peterman Blurb Sounds Alarm

     LEBANON, Ohio (CN) – The J. Peterman Co., a mail-order catalog lampooned in “Seinfeld,” misappropriated a U.S. Marine’s memories to peddle a shooting vest, he claims in court.
     Charles Gerhardt Jr. says his military followed in the footsteps of his forefathers, two of whom are buried in Arlington National Cemetery, but that J. Peterman misappropriated his “personal and business reputation to capitalize on the valor of his father and soldiers of Normandy.”
     Gerhardt’s lawsuit in the Warrant County Court of Common Pleas takes issue with the longwinded product description in J. Peterman’s catalog for the “Gerhardt Shooting Sweater.”
     “I’m doing field work on Charles again today (for a long-form project),” J. Peterman’s blurb states, as quoted in the May 21 complaint.
     “I’m with his son, Charlie. Late afternoon.
     “We’re in his little antique shop outside of Lebanon, Ohio. He’s wearing his dad’s tattered 1944 shooting vest, says his dad wore it in Normandy, France.
     “I study it as we slowly lap his shop, listening to stories I won’t find in writings. Some he remembers just now, sparked by the sudden unfamiliar joy of someone really listening to stories we both know should have been told already about a man who did things, brave things, important things.
     “Gerhardt Shooting Sweater (No. 4459). Light soft merino wool. Ribbed body with stand-up collar. Suede recoil patch at each shoulder. Antique brass zipper down center front. Made in India.”
     Seeing the distorted version of himself in the catalog allegedly came as a surprise to Gerhardt, who says the unnamed representative for J. Peterman showed up with an acquaintance at Gerhardt’s antique shop in Lebanon.
     J. Peterman’s representative, who might have been either John J. Peterman or Tim Peterman, allegedly never advised “that he was engaged in mail-order sales, or that defendants planned to utilize plaintiff’s likeness to gain commercial advantage,” the complaint states.
     “They conversed generally, and spoke about plaintiff’s father,” the complaint states.
     Gerhardt notes that his father had been “commanding general of the 29th Infantry Division in the assault on Omaha Beach on D-Day and through the European campaign … [and subsequently] served as United States Defense Attaché to Brazil.”
     Gerhardt says the use of his name in J. Peterman’s catalog embarrassed him and has made him “concerned that veterans, families and members of the public would purchase a product in unwitting reliance upon untruths.”
     The blurb furthermore implies that Gerhardt sponsors “an item that never existed in historical fact,” according to the complaint.
     Gerhardt notes that “Major General Charles Gerhardt did not own a vest resembling the product sold by defendants, and he did not dress in casual attire while his troops fought.”
     “Nor does Charlie Gerhardt possess his father’s clothing or anything resembling the article described in defendants’ advertisement,” the complaint states.
     Gerhardt compensatory and exemplary damages for a violation of his publicity rights and deceptive trade practices. He is represented by David Rudwall of Dayton, Ohio.
     “Seinfeld” routinely parodied the J. Peterman catalog in a multiseason story arc that brought the “urban sombrero” to the pop-culture lexicon.

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