Would You Confuse This Couch With Humphrey Bogart?

from the don't-bogart-that-couch dept

We’ve mentioned it in passing on this site, but one especially troubling area of what (misleadingly) called “intellectual property” law is the rise of publicity and/or privacy rights (especially in New York and California), which try to get famous people an “intellectual property” type monopoly right over their names or likenesses, even in ridiculous situations. The latest such example involves the estate of actor Humphrey Bogart, suing furniture company Ashley Furniture for creating a furniture colleciton named “Bogart.” From what I can tell, it looks like.. well, lots of other furniture on the market these days. For example, below is the sectional/recliner sofa:

Having recently gone shopping for similar couches, I can tell you first hand that they pretty much all look like that. Nothing about that couch screams “Humphrey Bogart,” and the name certainly isn’t going to make one bit of difference in the purchasing decision. It’s not as if the name makes a big difference here, so it’s pretty silly to claim that anyone is buying anything in this collection of furniture because of the association with the actor. But, that’s what happens when you get ridiculous laws like publicity rights laws, that create a monopoly right out of someone’s name.

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Companies: ashley furniture

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Comments on “Would You Confuse This Couch With Humphrey Bogart?”

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40 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Dude!

http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?search=bogart&searchmode=none

1969, “to keep a joint in your mouth,” dangling from the lip like Humphrey Bogart’s cigarette in the old movies, instead of passing it on. First attested in “Easy Rider.” The word was also used 1960s with notions of “get something by intimidation, be a tough guy” (again with reference to the actor and the characters he typically played). In old drinking slang, Captain Cork was “a man slow in passing the bottle.”

Rob Bodine (profile) says:

Overstating your argument

You’re overstating your argument a bit. I agree that Bogart, LLC’s suit is a bit of a stretch, but don’t be so critical of likeness rights. There’s a fair balance to be struck. Celebrities lose privacy rights, which makes likeness rights fair, although cases like this show that we still need to hammer out the details. Of course, many celebrities are hypocrites and complain when they don’t enjoy the exact level of privacy that you and I have come to expect, but that shouldn’t affect whether we grant likeness rights. It seems to have become the American way to want something for nothing. 🙂

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Overstating your argument

Not all of them, and how much is ‘a lot’ to have helicopters flying over head trying to get snaps of my new born?

There is no money in the world which should compensate for loss of privacy. IMHO. Just because I chose to become an actor doesn’t mean that I handed over my constitutional rights to privacy. It doesn’t mean you deserve to know every inch of my PRIVATE life.

This is not to say that I think celebs are guaranteed compensation for likeness rights. A wax statue. F-U. Pay Me. A ‘couch’ named Bogart??? F-U. Get a life….

Nastybutler77 (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“it isnt a question of confusing the couch with the actor, it is a question of confusing the actors involvement or approval of the product.”

I could only see that if they called the couch the “Humphrey Bogart.” As it is, while not as ubiquitous as Johnson or Williams, there are many people with the last name of Bogart. If the only Bogart most people know is Humphrey, that isn’t the manufacturer’s problem, and you shouldn’t be able to trademark a last name, whether common or not. If they called it “Hughes” instead of “Bogart” would Howard Hughes’ estate be able to sue? What if they called it “Nixon?”

Bogie Fan says:

What’s odd about the lawsuit? Thomasville paid the Bogart Estate millions to use the name, so clearly the name has value. This furniture company clearly named the couch after Bogart in hopes of making it a bit more exciting and attractive and setting it apart. The same thing has happened with Brando jackets, Hepburn jewelry, Sinatra shirts, and the list goes on. Why should companies be allowed to pay nothing to the rights holders and add sizzle to their crappy products for free? Separate and apart from compensation, why should a company be allowed to use a celebrity’s name without permission? A couch is one thing. But what if a celebrity’s family does not want to be associated with, for example, alcohol or cigarettes? Is your position really that any company can attach a celebrity name to its product without obtaining permission or paying compensation? That’s just crazy to me.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re:

his furniture company clearly named the couch after Bogart in hopes of making it a bit more exciting and attractive and setting it apart. The same thing has happened with Brando jackets, Hepburn jewelry, Sinatra shirts, and the list goes on. Why should companies be allowed to pay nothing to the rights holders and add sizzle to their crappy products for free?

And why should estates of dead people get free cash just because someone names their product? That seems a lot more crazy to me than what you’re saying.

Separate and apart from compensation, why should a company be allowed to use a celebrity’s name without permission

Because they’re naming a product. If they’re not actually using their likeness, or making any representation that the product is actually endorsed by the star, then what’s wrong with it?

But what if a celebrity’s family does not want to be associated with, for example, alcohol or cigarettes? Is your position really that any company can attach a celebrity name to its product without obtaining permission or paying compensation? That’s just crazy to me.

Free speech is a wonderful thing. People can say stuff you don’t like.

Bogie Fan says:

Re: Re: Re:

As you must know, you are wrong from a legal perspective. There really can’t be an argument about that. So, now we’re having a moral discussion. Why do you feel so strongly that a soul-less, profit-motivated, fictitious legal entity like a furniture corporation should have greater rights than a person (living celebrity or the family of a deceased celebrity)? Free speech? Surely you are aware of the different legal treatment of commercial speech as opposed to political speech? Is a corporation pitching its crappy products in a money-making effort really deserving of the same protection as a political dissident?

Would your position change if it was the Humphrey Bogart couch? What if it was the Tom Cruise couch? If so, what’s the difference? If not, why is a corporation entitled to profit by associating its products with a celebrity name without either permission or compensation?

Almost Anonymous (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“””
As you must know, you are wrong from a legal perspective. There really can’t be an argument about that.
“””

Actually there can be an argument: YOU are wrong, no law was broken. See how that works? Naming a couch after a long dead celebrity does not fall under the auspices of naming rights, IMO. Nobody in their right mind thinks that Bogie is endorsing this couch from beyond the grave. As far as the family, who cares? They are not the famous ones, no one cares about their opinion. Since you are arguing the point, how long will it be before someone could conceivably name their couch ‘Bogart’ without inviting a lawsuit?

whatev says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

well, there is still a problem besides the publicity rights violation, which is a law that was broken by the way. According to that complaint, the Bogart family has a trademark in the “bogart” name for furniture, which also makes it illegal to name furniture bogart. So, in your own words: YOU are wrong.

Griff (profile) says:

Slashdot style buttons

— But what do the slashdot-style buttons do? —

They are like the “door close” buttons in an elevator.
They do nothing, but they make you feel like you have done something, and hence make you feel slightly less powerless in this vast cruel world we live in.

Or maybe they are accidentally logged by google to build up a political profile of you that might one day be subpoena’d by a totalitarian regime looking for reasons to incarcerate you.

Either way, enjoy…

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