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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  • icon
    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), 15 Jun 2010 @ 12:14pm

    Dude!

    Don't bogart the couch! Not cool.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 15 Jun 2010 @ 12:29pm

      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."

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 15 Jun 2010 @ 12:32pm

      Re: Dude!

      You took the words right out from under my keyboard.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Technopolitical (profile), 15 Jun 2010 @ 1:21pm

      Re: Dude!

      beat me too it ,, but don't Borgart , that doooobie either

      --------------

      Mike you is lucky Boggie is dead ,, or he would really hurt you ,

      Here's looking at you kid.....!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Bog Art, 15 Jun 2010 @ 12:30pm

    I hope they don't come after my company that sells paintings to hang in your bathroom.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Rob Bodine (profile), 15 Jun 2010 @ 12:40pm

    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. :-)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Overcast (profile), 15 Jun 2010 @ 12:53pm

      Re: Overstating your argument

      But it's not like they have the market on the name 'Bogart' - I'm sure it's not unique to the actor and existed long before he even did.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Fushta, 15 Jun 2010 @ 3:45pm

        Re: Re: Overstating your argument

        To CYA, all you have to do is find someone with the last name of "Bogart," and pay them a fee ($100) to use their name. Then, you can say, you were not using Humphrey Bogart's last name, you were using Steve Bogart's last name.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      jjmsan (profile), 15 Jun 2010 @ 12:54pm

      Re: Overstating your argument

      Celebrites make a lot of money for the loss of privacy. Stating that likness rights should also be given does not follow.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 15 Jun 2010 @ 1:32pm

        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....

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Jun 2010 @ 12:49pm

    I dunno, in the right light that furniture could look pretty menacing...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Designerfx (profile), 15 Jun 2010 @ 12:57pm

    haha

    I guess in a humorous way maybe you can say it looks like Bogart?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    ComputerAddict (profile), 15 Jun 2010 @ 1:06pm

    I think this case has merit since there was already a trademark issued for the name "Bogart" for a furniture line (See par. 16) It sounds like Humphrey is the owner of that trademark and licensed its use to Thomasville...

    This seems like the exact thing trademarks are suppose to be used for..

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Dark Helmet (profile), 15 Jun 2010 @ 1:08pm

    Obligatory slightly altered quotation...

    Of all the commercial industries in all the economies in all the world, his estate had to walk into this one....

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    cc (profile), 15 Jun 2010 @ 1:15pm

    Now that you mention it, Humphrey did look a bit like a sofa!

    Cool, btw -- you added slashdot-style buttons on posts :)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      mkam, 16 Jun 2010 @ 5:03am

      Re:

      But what do the slashdot-style buttons do? I have been downing and upping posts and it doesn't seem to have an effect. Maybe it is an experiment right now.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    crade (profile), 15 Jun 2010 @ 1:23pm

    That couch ripped off my couch. All these copyright laws and people are still making couches that are copies of my couch!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Jun 2010 @ 1:37pm

    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. it would be similar to a 'techdirt male g-string'. the implication is that techdirt in some manner may be involved with the product.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Mr Big Content, 15 Jun 2010 @ 5:23pm

    Famous Names Should Be Retired

    Once somebody becomes famous with a certain name, no one else should be allowed to use that name any more, to avoid confusion. For example, Will Smith has become so famous that no one else should be allowed to use the name “Smith”.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Bogie Fan, 15 Jun 2010 @ 9:13pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Mike Masnick (profile), 15 Jun 2010 @ 11:31pm

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Bogie Fan, 15 Jun 2010 @ 11:57pm

        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?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Almost Anonymous (profile), 16 Jun 2010 @ 9:47am

          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?

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            whatev, 21 Jun 2010 @ 3:30pm

            Re: Re: Re: 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.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            whatev, 21 Jun 2010 @ 3:34pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            but you probably didn't read the complaint did you? and you probably don't even know what the laws actually say concerning publicity rights and trademarks, and you probably don't know the consequences of abandoning those laws that protect publicity rights and trademarks

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    AC & Your Sunshine's Banned, 16 Jun 2010 @ 2:47am

    "What if it was the Tom Cruise couch? "



    The Tom Cruise couch is the one that's only 24 inches tall.

    The Bogart couch is the one that smells like alcohol and nicotine.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Griff (profile), 24 Jun 2010 @ 2:43am

    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...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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