Of all the Trench Coats in all the World…

By Jennifer Williams [June 19th, 2012] 


To me, there is nothing more dreamy than Humphrey Bogart; except, perhaps, an image of Bogart in a trench coat. The owner of Bogart’s name and likeness seems to agree and is suing Burberry for posting a picture on Facebook of Mr. Bogart wearing a Burberry trench.

Bogart, LLC, which is primarily owned by Bogart’s children, contacted Burberry demanding it cease all uses that violate its exclusive rights. According to Bogart, LLC, this use of the image subjects Burberry to liability for trademark infringement and dilution as well as violation of the right of publicity. Burberry then filed a lawsuit seeking a declaratory judgment on the issue.

Burberry claims that it used the image of Humphrey Bogart as part of a historical timeline on Facebook, which shows the evolution of the brand created in 1856. The specific image in question shows Humphrey Bogart as Rick Blaine in a scene from Casablanca and according to Burberry it licensed the image from a photo agency for editorial use.

I checked out the timeline and found it fascinating, and frankly spent way too much time feeling nostalgic. When I looked, the Bogart image was noticeably absent from the lineup. I felt like I was being robbed of an iconic moment in fashion history and was determined to find out if Burberry would be able to return the image to its place in the timeline.

In terms of trademark infringement, Burberry claims the First Amendment protects its use and that not being able to use the image violates the right to show the history of the brand. For dilution, Burberry claims that the use of the image does not tarnish any rights or imply that Bogart, LLC is affiliated with or has approved of Burberry’s use. Finally, for right to publicity, Burberry purports that any reference to Humphrey Bogart is factual and used to show the history of the brand, which in no way implies to the public anything other than this.

Time will tell whether Mr. Bogart will rejoin the Burberry ranks, and until then, here’s looking at you, kid.

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