Now answer the following multiple-choice question. Is Bogie’s trench coat:
a) A Burberry
b) An Aquascutum
c) Neither of these
If a), Burberry could be in serious trouble. And certainly the Bogart estate, represented by 63-year-old son of the actor, Stephen Bogart, thinks it should be. So much so that the estate is suing Burberry over trademark infringement (that’s Bogie’s trademark, not the trench coat’s) after the London fashion house allegedly purloined an image of the actor wearing the coat for a Facebook page.
According to Bogart Jnr, the image is there purely and simply to promote Burberry sales – and shows a marked “disrespect” for the family’s legal rights.
Not so, says Burberry. It has riposted with a counter-suit alleging the picture of ‘Bogie’ was a historical reference in a timeline, and protected under America’s First Amendment, which guarantees freedom of speech.
Lawyer Michael Crain, representing the Bogart estate, reckons his client’s case is historic because it tackles the issue of identity theft in social media. But that will only be so if Burberry fails to establish that its purpose in using the image was educational, and therefore not commercial.
A more nagging question for brand buffs – and perhaps for Burberry itself – is whether Bogie’s coat, which makes its appearance in the closing scenes of the 1942 movie classic, is actually a Burberry.
So, perhaps Aquascutum should get in on the legal gravy-train as well. Who knows? It could end up costing Burberry millions of dollars.