Marilyn’s Estate Sues Lingerie Brand

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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.”

Anatomy of a Lingerie Ad

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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.

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Merged image without lettering and colouring. Thanks to Fraser Penney
Merged image without lettering and colouring. Thanks to Fraser Penney

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.