“Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine”. No, that isn’t Rick about Ilsa, it’s Burberry about the Bogart Estate. Of all the, say, 800 million Facebook accounts in existence, a pair of peepers from the Bogart Estate happened to land on Burberry’s Facebook page, and, surprise, surprise, didn’t like what it saw. The dispute between the British mega-brand and the estate of whom the American Film Institute has called the greatest male star in the history of American Cinema, is centered on a single photo of Humphrey Bogart wearing a Burberry trench coat in the final scene of Casablanca.
On the one hand, Burberry claims that its use of the picture is legitimate, since it licensed the image from photo agency Corbis. Additionally, Burberry asserts that the picture was not used to sell merchandise, but used as part of its Facebook “timeline”, and “…intended to reflect on the long history, significance and influence of Burberry fashion in society…Burberry’s use of the image… was not directly connected to the sale of any merchandise, but rather was a historical positioning of the image within an educational project along with numerous other photographs…” (Don’t tell me you’ve never heard of Burberry University.) Therefore, Burberry maintains, its use of the Bogart picture is protected under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
On the other hand, Stephen Bogart, son of the Hollywood legend, isn’t buying it, stating “This is such an incredibly disappointing and disrespectful action by Burberry…Apparently they believe a shoe company can advertise the fact that Brad Pitt wore its brand while jogging down the street, or a beverage company can claim George Clooney drank its product in one of his movies — all without even asking, much less obtaining, the actors’ permission…Wouldn’t that be a nice, clever way to get Hollywood icons to endorse or advertise products without paying compensation or, more importantly, obtaining permission? What’s next, a cigarette company can start an advertising program claiming Bogie smoked its brand, and there’s nothing our family can do about it?”
And, just in case Stephen Bogart missed anything, the estate’s lawyer, Michael O. Crain, elaborated further on the their position,”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…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.” Yikes.
After the Bogart Estate sent Burberry a cease and desist letter, in early May, Burberry sought a declaratory judgment from a New York federal court, which would assure that Burberry’s use of Bogart’s name and image was legal and not infringing Bogart LLC’s trademark rights or rights of publicity. Meanwhile, Bogart LLC filed a trademark infringement lawsuit in California state court in Los Angeles.
View Complaint here: