What Does the Lanham Act Say Regarding Trademark Infringement?

There are high stakes in the world of brand protection when you use a celebrity’s persona in advertising without their approval.

A celebrity’s fame and respect gained through years of work in the public eye make them an attractive business partner and spokesperson.  Their image becomes their brand, making the celebrity name and image (persona) valuable assets.  When a company uses the image and likeness of a celebrity without their permission, the act is considered Trademark Infringement.

“Ice Cube” Celebrity Image & Persona Can Hold Trademarks

O’Shea Jackson, Sr., professionally known as “Ice Cube,” is a registered trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), registration number 3717252. In March of this year, Ice Cube filed suit against Robinhood and Robinhood Financial (Robinhood) for using his likeness and altered lyrics without his permission. 

The first claim for relief filed by the actor, rapper, and social activist, was Violation of the Lanham Act under 15 USC § 1125 (a), false designations of origin, false descriptions and dilution forbidden.

Ice Cube has spent years building the value of his image and brand by carefully choosing the products and services he endorses, which further establishes his name and image as a respected brand.

Robinhood used Ice Cube’s image and likeness and his signature catchphrase in advertisements on their website and app, to create the impression that he actually endorsed the company, its products, and its services.  Ice Cube had not authorized Robinhood to use his image or likeness, therefore creating a false impression to the public, causing damage to Ice Cube and affecting the value of his brand.

The complaint filed states, “Defendants use of Ice Cube’s image and likeness is designed to create and does create the false and deceptive commercial impression that Defendants and their products are associated with and endorsed by Ice Cube. The use by Defendants of Ice Cube’s image and likeness is likely to cause confusion, mistake, or deception of consumers as to Ice Cube’s endorsement of goods and services… The image and likeness of Ice Cube are the sole property of Ice Cube.”

Robinhood engaged in unfair trade practice when it sought to enhance its brand by using Iced Cube’s persona without permission.  Ironically, Robinhood lost public trust and confidence in trying to strengthen its brand and damaged its reputation beyond repair.  All injuries could have been avoided by asking for permission.

The professionals at Ference & Associates specialize in protecting brands from trademark infringement.  To learn how they can protect your brand, please reach out to their IP attorneys via email at contact@ferencelaw.com or by phone at (412) 741-8400.

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Ference & Associates is a Pittsburgh, PA based law firm with a global client base. Our attorneys focus on patent, trademark, and copyright law.

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