Bogart’s ‘Casablanca’ Trench Coat Stirs Up Legal Action

by T+B Blog Team on May 4, 2012

The last time you read about Burberry here on T+B the story involved the unlawful use of its iconic plaid on chairs in an Armenian coffee shop. Now Burberry Group Plc is involved in dueling lawsuits with the estate of actor Humphrey Bogart over the use of an image of the actor wearing one of its trench coats in the movie ‘Casablanca.’

Bogart LLC, the company that manages the late actor’s estate, has filed suit against Burberry for the unauthorized use of Bogart’s image in a social media campaign. The image of Bogie wearing a Burberry trench coat came from the final scene of Casablanca. Bogart LLC, majority-owned by the children of Bogart and his widow, actress Lauren Bacall, claims it did not give Burberry permission to use the image. The lawsuit seeks an injunction to stop Burberry’s use of the image and unspecified damages.

Burberry filed legal action of its own, asking a federal court for a declaratory judgment that its use of Bogart’s name and image in social media did not constitute trademark infringement. The image of the Burberry-clad Bogart, according to the British fashion house, had been licensed from photo agency Corbis and was used in an historical timeline showing “the influence of the brand.” Burberry said that the image was not being used to sell merchandise and claimed that its use of the image is protected under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. (If you happen to be a Facebook fan of Burberry, you’ll see photos of other actors in the company’s timeline, including Robert Mitchum and Tyrone Power.)

The late actor’s son, Stephen Bogart, had this to say about Burberry in a press release: “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.”

What’s your favorite Humphrey Bogart movie?



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