Celebrity False Endorsements

09 June 2014

With the continuous rise of social media and Twitter or Instagram endorsements appearing on celebrity social media feeds, it’s certainly a growing theme that companies will pay substantial fees for someone high profile to endorse their goods. Advertising regulations require companies to make it clear to consumers when something is a commercial endorsement, and so celebrities will often use “#advert” or “#SPON” to do so.

With the rise of celebrity endorsements, like any counterfeit strategy there comes the rise of celebrity false endorsements. There are at least two battles currently underway by Hollywood actresses who are trying to prevent others from using their image to advertise products without their consent under the doctrine of “false endorsement”. We saw this issue last year when Rihanna successfully sued Topshop after they used her image on their t-shirts, although this is due to be appealed.

More recently, Scarlett Johansson has launched a case in the French courts for false endorsement against an author whose novel features a character that she says closely resembles her. The claim is that the author and publisher of the book have used her image and reputation to publicise the book, which has already sold 100,000 since it was published in March 2013. Ms Johansson is seeking damages and an injunction to prevent translation and adaptation for cinema. The author has previously argued that using Ms Johansson’s name allowed him to make a statement about the way modern romantic fantasies were affected by the “pervasiveness of celebrity culture”; albeit that his heroine was not meant to actually be Ms Johansson. A decision from the French court is due in July.

Halle Berry has also recently brought a claim against an Italian watch company who she says used her name and image in their advertisements without her permission. Ms Berry filed her lawsuit in October last year, requesting $2m in damages and an injunction to prohibit the company from using her likeness in any way. It was recently reported that the watch company is disputing the claim as they say that the advertisements were used “in connection with any news or public affairs, or any other type of publication”. It is not clear at this stage whether this is will work as a viable defence to Ms Berry’s claim.

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About the Author

Joelle Rich

Partner

Joelle specialises in privacy, defamation, private family law and intellectual property rights, with clients ranging from high profile and high-net worth individuals to companies in the financial sphere.

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