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It has been widely reported in the general press in the last few days that ‘image rights’ issues have delayed the signing of the contract that brought Jose Mourinho to Manchester United as its next manager, following the departure of Louis van Gaal. However, as of this morning it appears that these issues have been overcome with confirmation that Mourinho has signed a three-year contract.
As we know, despite the 2015 Rihanna v Topshop Appeal decision, image rights as such are not protected by the English legal system, and the more discerning IP reporters have probably correctly identified that the tricky point might evolve around the registered trade mark for Mourinho’s name. (more…)
The English legal system does not acknowledge image rights. Celebrities cannot claim a monopoly on their image, nor a right to control the use of their name, likeness and other attributes that the public associates with them. Historically, they have resorted, as a compromise, to other forms of protection, such as registered trade marks and passing off (see explanation of passing off below), in particular.
However, a recent appeal judgement by the English Courts indicates that in certain circumstances, and depending entirely on the facts of the case, the Common Law tort of passing off can be “stretched” to prohibit the commercial use of celebrities’ images. This precedent is, in the view of the author, likely to be applied tightly, but presents an opening that celebrities will look to rely on to control the use of their image by unauthorised third parties.
The appeal judgement relates to the entertainment industry and follows a case successfully brought by pop-star Rihanna against the high street retailer Topshop. However, the implications for sports personalities, for whom a large proportion of the earnings originates from product endorsements, are self- evident and possibly greater that those for the entertainment industry. (more…)