Fordham Intellectual Property, Media & Entertainment Law Journal | Ariana Grande in Dispute Over Intellectual Property and “Likeness”
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Ariana Grande in Dispute Over Intellectual Property and “Likeness”

Ariana Grande in Dispute Over Intellectual Property and “Likeness”

Earlier this month, Ariana Grande filed a lawsuit in the State of California, claiming that the retailer Forever 21 used her “name, likeness, and other intellectual property to promote their brands for free.”[footnote]Sara M. Moniuszko, Ariana Grande Is Suing Forever 21 for $10 Million Over “Look-Alike” Ad Campaign, USA Today (Sept. 3, 2019, 3:44 PM), https://www.usatoday.com/story/entertainment/celebrities/2019/09/03/ariana-grande-sues-forever-21-10-million-over-look-alike-campaign/2197997001.[https://perma.cc/NA5R-LVN2][/footnote] According to the complaint, the singer is seeking about $10 million in damages.[footnote]Id.[/footnote] The dispute comes after a marketing and merchandise deal between Forever 21 and the pop singer fell through, because, as Grande stated, the major retailer was not willing to pay her enough for the deal, thus ending the possibility of an agreement.[footnote] Isobel Van Hagen, Ariana Grande is Reportedly Suing Forever 21 for $10 million for Using Lookalike in Fashion Campaign, Newsweek (Sept. 3, 2019, 5:10 PM),  https://www.newsweek.com/ariana-grande-reportedly-suing-forever-21-10-million-using-lookalike-fashion-campaign-1457510.[https://perma.cc/63YU-7TTA][/footnote]

Despite the death of the arrangement between Grande and Forever 21, the retailer seemingly proceeded with many aspects of their plan to market goods around Grande’s “brand” anyway.[footnote]Id.[/footnote] Grande released her latest album, “Thank U, Next,” in February 2019, and followed the album with the release of a now extremely popular music video for her hit song “7 Rings.”[footnote]Julia Jacobs, Ariana Grande Sues Forever 21 Over ‘Look-Alike Model’ in Ads, N.Y. Times (Sept. 3, 2019), https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/03/arts/music/ariana-grande-forever-21.html.[https://perma.cc/53NF-CVHL][/footnote] In the video, Ariana Grande appears with a very specific look, including her iconic high ponytail and hairpiece, which has pink puff balls on top.[footnote]Id.[/footnote] In its stores, Forever 21 proceeded to sell a similar pink puff ball hairpiece, which it advertised using a model who sported a slicked-back ponytail hairstyle very similar to Grande’s.[footnote]Id.[/footnote] The store used the lookalike model and advertised associated products through April of the same year, even after being contacted by Grande’s lawyers about the misuse of her likeness and image.[footnote]Id.[/footnote]

Grande’s claim was filed in the Federal District Court in Los Angeles on September 2, 2019.[footnote]Sara M. Moniuszko, Ariana Grana Is Suing Forever 21 for $10 Million Over “Look-Alike” Ad Campaign, USA Today (Sept. 3, 2019, 3:44 PM), https://www.usatoday.com/story/entertainment/celebrities/2019/09/03/ariana-grande-sues-forever-21-10-million-over-look-alike-campaign/2197997001.[https://perma.cc/NA5R-LVN2][/footnote] California law states that where anyone “knowingly uses another’s name, voice, signature, photograph, or likeness” in or on products, merchandise, or goods, or “for purposes of advertising or selling…without using such person’s prior consent,” they have used that individual’s likeness illegally.[footnote]Cal. Civ. Code § 3344(a).[/footnote] The state law indicates that should Grande win the suit, she can be compensated for actual damages suffered “as a result of the unauthorized use,” which would include potential loss in profits from the sale of goods using her likeness.[footnote]Id.[/footnote] Grande can also sue to recover punitive damages[footnote]Black’s Law Dictionary (11th ed. 2019).[/footnote], which would include any personal injury to Grande’s “brand” as a result of the unauthorized use.[footnote]Cal. Civ. Code §3344 (a).[/footnote]

Forever 21 and its representatives have yet to release a statement on the matter, though it seems like a serious concern for the company that had just declared bankruptcy prior to the $10 million suit.[footnote]Isobel Van Hagen, Ariana Grande is Reportedly Suing Forever 21 for $10 million for Using Lookalike in Fashion Campaign, Newsweek (Sept. 3, 2019, 5:10 PM),  https://www.newsweek.com/ariana-grande-reportedly-suing-forever-21-10-million-using-lookalike-fashion-campaign-1457510.[https://perma.cc/63YU-7TTA][/footnote]

Alexandrea Jacinto

Alexandrea Jacinto is a second-year J.D. candidate at Fordham University School of Law and a staff member of the Intellectual Property, Media & Entertainment Law Journal. She is also a Brendan Moore Trial Advocacy member. She has a B.A. in Government and Law with a minor in History from Lafayette College, where she was Division I varsity athlete.