Burberry Seeks Ruling It’s Not Violating Bogart Trademark

Burberry Group Plc and heirs of Humphrey Bogart have filed lawsuits against each other over an image of the late actor wearing a Burberry trench coat in the film “Casablanca.”

Burberry asked a federal court to declare that its use of Bogart’s name and image in social media doesn’t infringe Bogart LLC’s trademark rights or rights of publicity, it said in a complaint filed yesterday in New York.

Bogart LLC, which is majority owned by Bogart’s children, followed that action by filing a trademark-infringement complaint yesterday in California state court in Los Angeles. The company seeks a court order preventing Burberry from using Bogart’s name and image and unspecified damages.

The London-based fashion company said it licensed from photo agency Corbis an image of Bogart wearing the trench coat in the final scene of the 1942 film. The picture was used in a Burberry historical timeline to indicate the influence of the brand, according to the complaint. Burberry said the image wasn’t used to sell merchandise.

“Defendant is attempting to exert and assert against Burberry rights which it does not possess,” Burberry said in its complaint. The company said its reference to Bogart in the timeline is protected under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Burberry said Bogart LLC contacted it in April and ordered it to cease using the image. Bogart LLC then contacted the company at least two other times and “made a significant monetary demand,” Burberry said.

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Burberry’s “use of Bogart intellectual property rights in their marketing and promotion materials and in products were for the express purpose of commercially linking their Burberry brand and products to the persona and character of Humphrey Bogart in the minds of defendants’ potential and actual customers,” Bogart LLC said in its complaint.

Bogart LLC, according to a news release, is majority-owned by the children of Bogart and actress Lauren Bacall.

“This is such an incredibly disappointing and disrespectful action by Burberry,” Stephen Bogart, the son of the late actor, said in the release. “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?”

Bogart, who died in 1957 of cancer, was nominated for an Academy Award for his role as Rick Blaine, an expatriate nightclub owner, in “Casablanca.” The film won the Academy Award for Best Picture.

The federal case is Burberry Ltd. v. Bogart LLC, 12-3491, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan). The state case is Bogart LLC v. Burberry Group, BC483967, Superior Court of California, County of Los Angeles.

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