Ariana Grande is suing fast fashion retailer Forever 21 and Riley Rose, a beauty brand founded by the daughters of the owners of Forever 21 for $10 million for allegedly stealing, amongst other things, her intellectual property, in a complaint filed in the Californian courts.

BACKGROUND

The allegations came after Forever 21 approached Grande earlier this year regarding a potential endorsement deal, which was declined ‘due to Forever 21’s unwillingness to pay the fair market value’ [2]. The complaint alleges that Forever 21 instead chose to steal Grande’s ‘name, likeness, and other intellectual property to promote their brands for free’ [2] in an attempt to raise the brand’s profile during a period of reported financial downturn.

Forever 21 and Riley Rose published posts on social media containing ‘at least 30 unauthorized images and videos misappropriating Ms. Grande’s name, image, likeness and music in order to make the false perception of her endorsement’ [27]. In addition, social media posts which have now been taken down, included ‘audio and lyrics’ from Grande’s single ‘7 Rings’.

Grande argued that the brands continued to represent a correlation with Grande’s brand by hiring a model with an ‘uncanny’ resemblance to Grande wearing clothing and accessories that the public would immediately associate with the singer. She states that the the defendants ‘[f]alsely suggested Ms. Grande’s endorsement by hiring a look-alike model and posting photos of that model in clothing and accessories that resemble clothing worn in Ms. Grande’s music videos and that the public immediately associates with Ms. Grande‘ [28].

Exhibit 3 of complaint: Images of Ms. Grande from 7 Rings video

The complaint highlights the impact of Forever 21 and Riley Rose’s actions by explaining how Grande has the largest social media following of any female celebrity in the in the world and revealing that as a consequence of her fame, she could earn several hundred thousand dollars for a single post or millions of dollars for a longer-term endorsement.

The complaint alleges that Forever 21 and Riley Rose ‘improperly misappropriated and profited from Ms. Grande’s influence and star-power for approximately 14 weeks’ [34] as the brands used Grande’s name, image and likeness from the end of November 2018 until at least the middle of April 2019.

THE CLAIMS

Grande’s complaint brings six claims for relief against Forever 21 and Riley Rose including:

– Trade mark and copyright infringement 15 U.S. Code 1114(1) and 17 U.S. Code § 504for Grande’s registered trade marks, lyrics, images, video and audio from her most recent album ‘Thank u, next’.

– The violation of common law right of publicity- a leading case on the matter is White v. Samsung, 971 F.2d 1395 (9th Cir. 1992) which finds that the right protects a celebrity’s identity against unauthorised use for commercial purposes. As set out above, the complaint says that the unlawful use of Grande’s name, image and likeness including at least thirteen instances of use of a look-alike model falsely suggested Grande’s endorsement.

– False endorsement 15 U.S. Code § 1125 for ‘false or misleadingrepresentations of fact to falsely imply the endorsement of Forever 21 and Riley Roses’ businesses and products’.

Exhibit 3 of complaint: Image of Forever 21’s look-alike model with lyrics from 7 Rings

RELEIFS

The Complaint argues that Grande is entitled to the full range of relief available under the Lanhan Act 15 U.S. Code § 1117 and therefore seeks ‘actual damages, disgorgement of the brands’ [76] profits arising from the false or misleading acts’ as the Complaint deems the case to be ‘exceptional’ under the Lanham Act the Complaint also seeks a to get attorney fees and costs awarded.

Grande also seeks ‘punitive and exemplary damages in an amount to punish and deter the brands from engaging in such acts in the future’ [41] as well as a ‘permanent injunction restraining and enjoining Forever 21 and Riley Reid from using Grande’s name, likeness, persona, copyrights and trade marks’ [4].

Grande has requested a trial by jury.

RESPONSE

In response to the complaint, a spokesperson for Forever 21 has said “Forever 21 does not comment on pending litigation as per company policy. That said, while we dispute the allegations, we are huge supporters of Ariana Grande and have worked with her licensing company over the past two years. We are hopeful that we will find a mutually agreeable resolution and can continue to work together in the future”.

This is not the first time Grande has been involved in a copyright infringement case. In a complaint filed on 13 May 2019 by Robert Barbera a photographer, Ariana Grande was defendant in a copyright infringement claim for posting photos taking by Barbera without permission.