Client Query: A Celebrity Is Wearing My Brand

“Client Query” is a brief segment in which a common client question is broken down and answered. This month, Spear IP tackles that “OMG” moment… “A celebrity is wearing my brand!”

“A celebrity is wearing my brand and posted a photo on social media…should I re-post it everywhere?”

Quick answer: No. Unless you have permission. (Sorry.)

Every individual, no matter his celebrity status, has the right to control the use of his name, image, voice, and/or likeness in connection with a commercial purpose. This right is called the “right of publicity,” and it’s governed by state law. (It’s also why companies should get permission before posting photos of their clients for marketing purposes.)

Celebrity endorsements (using a celebrity’s name, image, or likeness in connection with a business or for promotional gain) are big revenue generators for many celebrities. Without a celeb’s permission, that awesome moment could turn ugly. As nice as a particular celebrity might seem, celebrities can be litigious, especially when it comes to their privacy. Example: Actress Katherine Heigl sued Duane Reade for this tweeted photo, to the tune of $6 MILLION dollars. The lawsuit alleged that Duane Reade improperly used Heigl’s name, image, and likeness and, truthfully, Heigl had a valid claim.

“Why can the paparazzi and tabloids get away with it?”

The paparazzi and tabloids can get away with it because of the first amendment, which protects journalistic, news-worthy expression (among other things). A social media share, especially in connection with a brand, would likely be considered a promotional, business-generating activity.

“So a celebrity is wearing my brand and I can’t do anything?”

A good marketing professional can advise regarding celebrity marketing and the delicate tap dance involved in seeking endorsements. Just be sure to get permission in writing before proceeding with a marketing campaign that features a celebrity.

What’s next?

Click the image below to sign up for Spear IP’s [free] Essential Legal Checklist for Fashion Brands.

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