Authentic Brands Group (ABG), the licensing arm of Marilyn’s estate, is suing a clothing company for copyright infringement over a lingerie line, reports IP Watchdog. (This is not to be confused with Marilyn Monroe Envy, an officially approved franchise, which was launched by ABG in 2014.)
“Defendant Fashion Central is a New York City-based manufacturer and wholesaler of intimate apparel, which includes undergarments. In their undergarment packaging, tags, and other branding, defendant utilized Marilyn Monroe’s image alongside phrases that alluded to famous quotes by Ms. Monroe. The defendant does not have a license to use Marilyn Monroe’s likeness or to use the registered trademarks for marketing/branding purposes.
On August 8, 2016, plaintiff became aware of defendant’s unauthorized use of the Marilyn Monroe marks and likeness and sent a cease and desist letter. Defendant continued with their allegedly unauthorized activities, leading to the filing of the complaint that starts this legal dispute. It is worth noting, however, that the defendant did not use the name Marilyn Monroe in any of its marketing, packaging, or other branding. Any association to Marilyn Monroe is based solely on defendant’s use of her visual likeness.
The fact that the Marilyn Monroe name does not appear on any of defendant’s potentially infringing products does not mean there is not a viable trademark infringement case or theory … According to the plaintiff, the Marilyn Monroe trademarks are highly recognizable and distinctive due to her enduring fame. Therefore, both federal and state law dilution claims have also been brought against the defendant.”
In an article for the Daily Mailabout the current revival of vintage-style lingerie, Sandra Howard recalls a youthful encounter with Marilyn. Sandra Howard is a former model, and is now married to the Conservative politician, Michael Howard. She has spoken about her memories of Marilyn before, and fictionalised their meeting in her 2014 novel, Tell the Girl.
“There is one – or rather two – very striking things I remember from meeting Marilyn Monroe.
It was during the early Sixties and I was in California with my first husband [Robin Douglas Home], who was writing a book about Frank Sinatra. I was having the time of my life.
There I was – barely out of my teens – hobnobbing with the likes of Sinatra and meeting all the stars I’d gawped at on the big screen back home.
What did we talk about? I wish I could remember. You see, Marilyn was wearing a silky, clingy, tangerine sweater with cream Capri pants and strappy heels.
But what stood out most of all – what grabbed the attention of everyone in the room, including me, and made us lose all rational thought – were her pointy breasts.
They stuck out like a pair of rockets ready to be launched, upholstered to perfection in the bra shape she made famous: the pointy bullet bra, the shape of the Fifties and Sixties.”
In private, Marilyn often spurned underwear, but can be seen wearing pointy bras in some professional photos, and during public appearances. According to her friend, Amy Greene, she also wore a bra in bed to keep her bust firm.
The ‘tangerine sweater’ recalled by Sandra Howard is probably the Pucci number worn by Marilyn in this 1962 photo by George Barris. On that occasion, however, she did not appear to be wearing a bra.
ABG, the licensing arm of Marilyn’s estate, has launched yet another brand. Marilyn Monroe Envy is a range of lingerie – which is ironic, since Marilyn found underwear confining and avoided it whenever she could.
The cover image is a merging of two well-known Milton Greene photos. Some fans are unhappy with this, when there are so many thousands of gorgeous originals to choose from. However, Milton’s son Joshua has stated that a unique, one-off image had been commissioned for the advertising campaign.
When asked if she wore anything at all to her famous calendar shoot, Marilyn memorably replied, ‘I had the radio on.’ However, at the foot of the page on the website, another sentence has been added – ‘I did too have something on.’ In fact, she never said this. The phrase ‘did too’ was not commonplace in Marilyn’s time, and makes her sound rather like a stroppy teenager!
While I understand the desire to keep Marilyn’s image up-to-date for marketing purposes, I can’t help feeling that her essence is being sidelined, and am doubly concerned that her estate seems to be encouraging this.