Burberry Claims No Trademark Infringement Over Humphrey Bogart Image

By Joseph Mandour on May 7, 2012

movie-symbol-200x154San Diego – High fashion apparel and accessories giant, Burberry Group, is seeking a federal court ruling that says it is not committing trademark infringement by using an image of the late actor Humphrey Bogart wearing a Burberry trench coat from the classic film “Casablanca.”

The luxury fashion house, founded in England, is asking the court to declare that its use of Bogart’s name and image for advertising in social media does not infringe the late actor’s estate’s trademark rights or rights of publicity, according to the complaint. The defendant in the complaint, Bogart, LLC, owns and manages the rights to the name, voice, signature, photograph, and likeness and all other publicity rights of the iconic actor.

Burberry contends that it licensed an image of Bogart wearing the trench coat from Corbis Images, an agency that provides commercial and editorial photography and illustrations. The image, which was from the final scene of the 1942 cult classic “Casablanca,” was used in a Burberry historical timeline to demonstrate the influence of the popular brand. The company also claims that the image was not used to sell its merchandise.

“Defendant is attempting to exert and assert against Burberry rights which it does not possess,” according to a statement from the complaint. Burberry also cited its reference to Humphrey Bogart in the timeline is protected under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, prohibiting the abridging of free speech.

According to the complaint, Bogart, LLC sent Burberry a cease and desist letter last month, ordering it to stop using the image. Burberry claims that Bogart, LLC followed up to the letter by contacting the British company at least two times making “a significant monetary demand.”

Bogart, who died in 1957, is regarded by the American Film Institute as the greatest male star in the history of American cinema. His trademark film persona was cemented by his performance in the still-celebrated “Casablanca,” making him a cultural icon among film lovers. Bogart’s portrayal in the role of Rick Blaine helped “Casablanca” win the Academy Award for best picture.

The attorney for the southern California-based Bogart, LLC did not offer any comment on the dispute.

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