Last week, the estate of legendary actor Humphrey Bogartfiled suit against Burberry to address the British fashion houses’ unauthorised, commercial use of Humphrey Bogart's publicity rights in an international campaign, which in turn was followed by Burberry filing a countersuit, insisting it didn’t breach Bogart’s rights, as the image was licensed from a photo agency to use for editorial use.
Burberry have been using the image of Bogart wearing one of their trench coats as seen in the final scene of Casablanca on its social media platforms, including Twitter and Facebook, as part of its historic “timeline”, showing the development of its "culture, products and people" over the decades. However, the estate is claiming that they never gave permission for the use of the Bogart image in the campaign, which Burberry insists is just for editorial use and not directly connected to the sale of any merchandise.
"Just as Burberry needed to obtain Emma Watson's consent before using her name and image to promote Burberry's brand and products, it needed to obtain permission from the Bogart Estate to use Humphrey Bogart's name and image in its social media marketing campaign," said publicity rights attorney Michael O. Crain, who represents Bogart LLC. "Burberry's business hinges on respect for its own intellectual property rights, so it is quite surprising to see that it apparently has so little respect for the clear rights of others."
Burberry has asked a federal court for a declaratory judgment that its use of Bogart’s name and image in social media did not constitute a trademark infringement, while the Bogart estate is seeking an injunction to stop Burberry’s use of the image and unspecified damages.
The fashion house does use other famous actors in the company’s Facebook timeline, including Robert Mitchum and Tyrone Power.