Last fall, a Wisconsin man who was running for sheriff legally changed his name to Andy Griffith, to garner attention to the election.
Andy Griffith, the actor who portrayed Sheriff Andy Taylor, in the hit television series “the Andy Griffith Show”, and criminal defense attorney “Matlock”, objected.
The Wisconsin man, formerly known as William Fenrick, changed his name to bring attention to the race and to be associated with the honor and integrity of the character portrayed on the Andy Griffith Show.
The name change did not get Fenrich/Griffith elected, but it did get him sued by the actor, Andy Griffith.
The lawsuit charged that Fenrick changed his name for the “sole purpose of taking advantage of Griffith’s notoriety in an attempt to gain votes” The lawsuit asked the court to compel him to go back to his original name. (kxmb.com). The suit claimed that William Harold Fenrick violated trademark and copyright laws as well as the actor’s privacy when he changed his name to Andrew Jackson Griffith.
Associated Press reports that “U.S. District Judge John Shabaz dismissed the lawsuit by Andy Samuel Griffith, who played Sheriff Andy Taylor on the popular 1960’s TV series.” (comcast.net).
Judge Shabaz ruled that the candidate did not violate federal trademark law, using the reasoning that the candidate did not use the name in a commercial transaction. He used the name “to seek elective office, fundamental First amendment protected speech”, (comcast.net). The Judge added that he public did not believe that the actor was running or sponsoring the candidacy.
Andy Samuel Griffith, 80, is a personable actor, associated with his role as the Sheriff Andy Taylor, the Sheriff of Mayberry. The Sheriff of Mayberry had an impeccable image of honesty, integrity and wisdoms, which he dispensed in a kindly manner to the townspeople in the small southern town where the story took place. Griffith is also known for his hit television series, “Matlock” in which he plays a wily, smart criminal defense attorney in Atlanta.
The Andy Griffith Show ran for eight years, from 1960 to 1968, on CBS television. During it’s long run, it was always in the top ten of ratings. The stellar cast included a memorable Don Knotts as Deputy Barney Fife, Frances Bavier as Aunt Bee, Betty Lynn as Thelma Lou, Aneta Corsaut as Helen Crump Jim Nabors as Gomer Pyle, George Lindsey as Goober Pyle, and Ron Howard as Opie. The show ended, still on top of the ratings, because Griffith decided to move on to other projects. (andygriffithshow.net).
“Matlock” ran from 1986 to 1995. The character defended justice while charging big fees and was the top criminal attorney in Atlanta. The lawyer character also dispensed wisdom along with a dose of charm, although more wily that Sheriff Taylor. the cast of Matlock included Nancy Stafford, Kari Lizer, Daniel Roebuck and Brynn Thayer, and Don Knotts.
Actor Andy Griffith has also appeared in several movies throughout his career.
Andy Griffith, 80 is retired and is living in North Carolina. The actor owns Mayberry Enterprises, which controls the intellectual property rights to his name and character.
The defendant in the case, is said to be relieved, as he does not have the resources to defend himself in such a case. The candidate for sheriff only garnered about 7% of the vote in the election.