Paris Hilton and Andre Agassi have both recently sued big brands in the States for using the personalities’ images and/or registered trade marks. The cases underline the growing popularity of trade mark registration with celebs. Emily Devlin reports.
Topic: People in advertising
Who: Paris Hilton, Andre Agassi, Hallmark Cards and Target
Where: California District Court (Hilton) and Las Vegas Federal Courts (Agassi)
When: September 2007
Law stated as at: 1st November 2007
Paris Hilton and Andre Agassi are two of the latest celebrities to take court action in the US to prevent the unauthorised use of their names and, in Paris Hilton's case, her image.
Paris Hilton has sued Hallmark Cards for a variety of offences including (according to her Complaint) commercial appropriation of identity, invasion of privacy, misappropriation of publicity and false designation of origin under the Lanham Act. In particular, Paris has taken umbrage at the use of her face on a greeting card entitled "Paris's First Day as a Waitress", which includes her "trademarked" phrase: "That's Hot".
Andre Agassi has similarly taken issue with the large retail chain Target, which apparently sold over 52,000 pairs of sandals by reference to the name AGASSI. Agassi claims this amounts to trade mark infringement and Target has already re-labelled all the sandals in question, even though a spokesperson has said the sandals were never marketed under the name itself.
Why this matters:
These two recent cases demonstrate that celebrities will often not hesitate to take action if they feel that their name or reputation is being misused for the personal gain of a large corporation that would otherwise have to pay for the use of their name or image. Some may view this as a further demonstration of the litigious nature of American celebrities. However, care must also be taken in the UK. Whilst English law does not offer the same causes of action as US law, our own law of passing off will operate to prevent a celebrity's name or image being used in order to endorse or promote the goods and services of a third party (see Irvine v Talksport). Even the use of a caricature of a living person is contrary to the Ofcom Code and therefore advertisers should be extremely wary of using either an image of a celebrity and/or a caricature or look alike.