Certain individuals can control the ability to commercialize their identity under their so called “Right of Publicity.” Gottlieb, Rackman & Reisman has been a leader in creatively and innovatively using the recognized “Right of Publicity,” alongside with more traditional intellectual property rights, to protect and enforce an individual’s rights in his or her name and likeness. This has been particularly important for sports and entertainment personalities since these persons — celebrity artists, sports figures and talents — are constantly challenged by third party attempts to misappropriate their images and well-known attributes for commercial purposes.
Simply, the Right of Publicity confers the right to control the commercial use and exploitation of an individual’s attributes such as his or her name, signature, voice, appearance, likeness, mannerisms and nicknames. The definition, scope of protection and application of the Right of Publicity is dictated by state laws, and thus varies from state to state.
Right of Publicity disputes frequently involve famous individuals or celebrities who are engaged in promotional activities for companies that seek their endorsements to promote and sponsor the company’s products or services. It is known that sports figures make millions in their sport arena but many of them make many more millions through endorsements often after they retire, such as in the case of Michael Jordan who has a wildly successful footwear brand in association with Nike.
While Right of Publicity differs from trademarks, there are similarities between the Right of Publicity and our trademark laws. Akin to the right of publicity, the trademark laws prohibit false or fraudulent endorsements and representations. Gottlieb Rackman & Reisman attorneys are experienced in both areas and can navigate the waters to establish your rights. Taking into consideration the value of the rights recognized not only under the Right of Publicity but by trademark laws in general, Gottlieb, Rackman & Reisman has encouraged celebrity clients, especially sports figures, to protect their names, signatures, “movements” and likeness even by registering those rights with the United States Patent and Trademark Office.