Best of 2011: “Life rights”? (Making things with life?)
First posted May 23, 2011. Pittsburgh Trademark Lawyer Daniel Corbett brings us an NBA star’s attempt at a four-point shot:
Post-relationship drama takes many forms, but federal court litigation under the Lanham Act isn’t typically one of them– unless you’re Miami Heat forward Chris Bosh. Bosh recently filed suit against the producer of VH1â€²s “Basketball Wives,” which, as Bosh correctly notes, comprises about as many ex-wives and/or girlfriends as it does “basketball wives” in the term’s purest sense. At any rate, Bosh is claiming that his ex-girlfriend and the mother of his child is violating his trademark, publicity, and “life rights” by using his name/likeness in connection with the show. The lawsuit claims that “[the show] provides these women with a vehicle and worldwide platform” to use the names of players without permission for commercial gain.”
Yes, “using the names . . . without permission for commercial gain” — that’s pretty much dog-bites-man in the IP / right of publicity arena these days. That’s not blogworthy.
No, you guessed it: The four-point-shot is the new and exciting proposed tort of “life rights”! My first inclination, as a child of the ’60’s — no, I mean, really, I was a child then, not that I was born in the ’50’s but kept acting like a child in the ’60’s — was this:
But evidently, no.
Beyond the standard “publicity rights” claims that are so popular these days due to bizarre and dangerous state laws, it seems that Bosh is going even further in claiming that this is also a violation of his “life rights,” claiming that you need a celebrity’s permission to portray them, which isn’t actually true. This seems to be a misreading of California’s publicity rights law. To be honest, while this case will likely settle one way or the other, it actually seems like it could be a good case for establishing some case law that you don’t need a celebrity’s permission to talk or write about them, and you’re not violating their “publicity rights,” “life rights,” or trademark by appearing in a show based on your connection to them.
As the great Marv Albert would say, “Yuhsssss!” Except in this case… “No.” Unless maybe he did mean Lite Brite?