The estate of Bette Davis is claiming in a new lawsuit that a California vintage clothing store is violating the publicity rights of the late actress with a dress called the "B Davis Dress," allegedly named after her.
According to the complaint, filed Thursday in Los Angeles Superior Court, defendant Stop Sharing! Designs wantonly, willfully, and maliciously knew it had no right to use Davis' name for a dress, but did so anyway. The defendant allegedly has other 1940s and 1950s vintage wares named after other actors.
No trademark violations are alleged, even though typically a trademark claim goes hand-in-hand when a defendant supposedly trades on the good name of a celebrity and falsely advertises an implied relationship. See, for example, Humphrey Bogart's estate vs. the "Bogart" couch.
Instead, the Davis estate and co-plaintiff CMG Brands are merely relying on California's publicity rights statute for an alleged infringement of the deceased celebrity's name and personality. Can a dress violate someone's personality? Yesterday, we examined a case in Washington where the constitutionality of a dead celebrity's publicity rights is in question.