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Bogart heirs and Burberry at odds over trench coat image

May 04, 2012|Bloomberg
  • Humphrey Bogart in "Casablanca" with Ingrid Bergman.
Humphrey Bogart in "Casablanca" with Ingrid Bergman. (Associated Press )

Burberry Group and heirs of Humphrey Bogart are suing 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 Corp.'s trademark rights or rights of publicity, it said in a complaint filed Wednesday in New York.

Bogart, which is majority owned by Bogart's children, followed that action by filing a trademark-infringement complaint Wednesday 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 illustrate 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 1st Amendment to the Constitution.

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

"This is such an incredibly disappointing and disrespectful action by Burberry," Stephen Bogart, the son of the late actor, said in a news 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.

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