GEO Group sues Netflix for trademark infringement over use of logos in 'Messiah' series

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Netflix headquarters in Los Gatos, Calif., in March 2014. - Handout/Dreamstime/TNS

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — The GEO Group, a Boca Raton-based operator of private prisons and detention centers, is suing Netflix over the streaming provider’s depiction of its “misappropriated trademarks and name” in its original series “Messiah.”

The suit says the series “falsely accuses GEO of detaining immigrants in overcrowded overheated rooms with chain-link fences and depriving them of beds, bedding, sunshine, recreation and educational opportunities.”

It goes on to say that “Unlike in ‘Messiah,’ GEO does not house people in overcrowded rooms with chain-link fences at its Facilities, but provides beds, bedding, air conditioning, indoor and outdoor recreational spaces, soccer fields, classrooms, libraries and other amenities that rebut ‘Messiah’s’ defamatory falsehoods.”

Netflix, the suit states, broadcast its “defamatory falsehoods about GEO with actual malice, either knowingly or recklessly disregarding that they were false.”

Netflix did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the suit.

“Messiah” premiered on Jan. 1 and remains accessible to Netflix subscribers.

Scenes in the fourth episode of the series depict GEO Group’s actual logos on shirt sleeves of fictional detention center workers, on the side of cars, and on a bus.

GEO Group, one of the nation’s largest detention contractors, has contracts with Immigration and Customs Enforcement to operate detention centers for immigrants being held before legal proceedings.

Unannounced inspections of three GEO-operated detention centers by Homeland Security officials between May and November 2018 found numerous examples of mistreatment, including detainees being restrained without justification, spoiled food, moldy bathrooms and limited recreational opportunities. Some were segregated in violation of their rights and prohibited from visits with family members.

When the report was released in June 2019, the company said they had already been “swiftly corrected.”

GEO Group’s suit seeks an order restraining use of the logo by Netflix along with unspecified financial compensation.

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©2020 Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)