Celebrities First Names in Advertising – Discussion Post

Question: Do you think that an ad that mentions “Lindsay” is referring to Lindsay Lohan? Has the name “Lindsay” become so linked to Lohan that companies run the risk of being sued if they use the name Lindsay in advertisements? What if the advertisement had used a name like “Oprah” or “Beyonce”?

Answer

An ad that mentions “Lindsay” may not necessarily be referring to Lindsay Lohan, but any company that mentions the name “Lindsay” risks being sued for using the name in advertisements. Lindsay Lohan was a much publicized celebrity with substance-addition issues. The first name of the celebrity has become so linked to Lohan that most audience consider Lindsay to be associated with Lohan. Based on the trademark and publicity rights, individuals are protected against appropriation of their names or likeness for the advantage of the defendant. The right of publicity refers to the reactions of the public to the plaintiff’s name and likeness. Therefore, an advertisement which uses a person’s name or likeness for commercial exploitation may be subject of claims in court. Because Lindsay has become so linked to Lohan before the public eye, any advertisement that uses the name “Lindsay” will be misappropriating the likeness of Lohan for commercial benefit.

The same case would apply if the names “Oprah” or “Beyonce” were used because the ad would still take advantage of a celebrity’s name or likeness for commercial benefits. The public would associate the names with the celebrity whose name has been publicized. In fact, the right of publicity law may refer to the appropriation of a celebrity’s identity, which includes their first and second names, image, and likeness. If a celebrity is well known by their first name such as Oprah and Beyonce, the public would expect that any advert that mentions such names is referring to the celebrities. Therefore, any use of a celebrity’s first name is an intentional tort that violates the plaintiff’s right of publicity.

References

Goldman, E. and Tushnet, R. (2012). Featuring People in Ads. Santa Clara Law Digital Commons, http://digitalcommons.law.scu.edu/facpubs/437.

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