Counterfeit Marilyn: U.S. company filed a lawsuit against Monroe merchandise, court news


Nearly 60 years after Marilyn Monroe’s death, she is still a popular choice for mugs, T-shirts, jewelry, and other products that use her name—even illegally.

Authentic Brands Group LLC, which owns the name of the late movie star and the rights to her most famous song popular “Diamond is a girl’s best friend”, won a court order to freeze the assets of dozens of virtual stores selling counterfeit goods.

The company stated in court documents that it cooperated with markets such as Amazon, Alibaba, eBay, Joom and Wish to shut down these sites, but that was not enough. The court documents set out a well-designed and often hidden operation to identify counterfeiters, seal the lawsuit, and seek judicial orders before the store knows they are targets.

“If you suspect that the defendant is operating offshore and you are operating in the mole field, you have to be creative,” said Anthony Dreyer, a trademark attorney for New York Star Corporation.

Dreyer was not involved in the case. He specializes in sports and entertainment intellectual property rights and filed a lawsuit on behalf of the National Hockey League to combat counterfeit products. He said that confiscation of illegal goods is not always possible and will not solve the problem.

“You want to go further in the chain, you want to make it harder for them to do business,” Dreyer said. “The complexity of various payment methods makes it more difficult to freeze assets and eventually confiscate them.”

Marilyn Monroe passed away at the peak of her career, which included popular hit movies such as “Gentleman Loves Blonde”, “Bus Stop” and “Seven Years Itch”, which included this iconic scene [File: Matty Zimmerman/AP Photo]

Lawsuits like the Marilyn Monroe case are becoming more and more common, because consumers hardly understand—or even care—the true and false when shopping online.

“In the past year, especially with Covid-19 and more and more consumers shopping online, counterfeiters have become very smart and take advantage of this,” said Tiffany Pho, anti-counterfeiting manager of the International Trademark Association.

The association predicts that by next year, the estimated total value of counterfeit goods, including digital piracy, will reach at least US$1.9 trillion per year. Pho said Internet sales are particularly popular because counterfeiters can have wider global influence and more ways to hide.

Monroe was only 36 when she died on August 4, 1962, the peak of her career, including popular movies such as “A Gentleman Loves Beauty”, “Bus Stop” and “The Seven Year Itch.”

This actress, known for her blonde hair and curvy figure, has inspired generations of entertainers, and she remains one of the most valuable brands, ranking 13th on the Forbes list of “the highest-paid celebrities late”.

Her property, including certain intellectual property rights, was divided, 25% to her therapist, and 75% to the famous performance coach Lee Strasberg.

After Strassberg’s death in 1982, the rights were transferred to his third wife Anna, and Authentic Brands eventually became the owner of the shares. For decades, the scope of these intellectual property rights has been subject to a large number of lawsuits, but the ownership of Monroe’s name and her most famous song is clearly owned by Authentic Brands.

Marilyn Monroe is also known for her “Happy Birthday” performance for then US President John F. Kennedy in Madison Square Garden in 1962, during which she wore this dress [File: Cecil Stoughton/White House Photographs, John F Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum via AP]

Jay P. Kennedy, associate professor and research assistant director of the Michigan State University Anti-Counterfeiting and Product Protection Center, said: “She has a timeless beauty that can still resonate even today.” “She represents people’s identification. Part of the history and culture of this country.”

This makes her name and image profitable both in legitimate companies that have obtained Authentic Brands and those that have not been authorized.

Marilyn Monroe is not alone. Kennedy said that almost all products on the market have counterfeit products that are sold at a low price.

“As consumers, if you look for products online, we don’t know what a trademark is or what is protected by copyright-we only know the product we are looking for,” he said. “A partner in our center joked that if you are a company and the products you produce are not counterfeit, then the products you produce are really bad.”

Decades after her death, her obsession with Marilyn Monroe’s life, image, fashion and movies continues [File: Mark Lennihan/AP Photo]

Companies including cigarette maker Philip Morris International Inc. and the trade group formed a new organization last month to jointly protect the United States from illegal trade, or USA-IT, to propose new ideas for law enforcement and public education.

Congress is also considering legislation to force sellers to provide more information so that consumers know what they are buying.

Monroe’s legacy can be extracted and settled through some websites.

On June 25, Judge Michael Brown of the Atlanta District Court approved the estate’s request to freeze the assets of other companies, but these companies did not respond to the lawsuit. Efforts to contact companies that have reached an agreement are not successful, or they will only say that the problem has been resolved.

Authentic Brands also represents the legacy of Elvis and Muhammad Ali, owns the Izod, Brooks Brothers and Forever 21 brands, and declined to comment on the dispute. People familiar with the matter said in May that the company is exploring a listing.

The case is Marilyn Monroe Estate v. 3D Home et al., 21-2214, District Court for the Northern District of Georgia (Atlanta).





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