One ongoing intellectual property dispute may be of interest to classic movie and automobile fans in New Jersey. The descendants of the famous actor, Steve McQueen, are suing the luxury car company Ferrari for marketing cars by making use of the actor’s image without compensation. The family members allege that the sports-car company made an unfair profit from the legacy of McQueen when it created and sold a special branded vehicle in 2017. The limited-edition “McQueen” model was issued as part of a 70th anniversary commemoration of the production of Ferrari cars.
The intellectual property lawsuit filed in California court claims that the Italian automobile company’s actions created a false perception that the vehicle was authorized by the family. It said that the vehicle used the McQueen name to appear to be an officially licensed product and that the actor’s name provides a price premium and additional value to a car. After an initial complaint by the family, the car company renamed the vehicle “The Actor” but continued to use McQueen’s image to advertise the Ferrari.
The lawsuit was filed by the son of the actor as well as the estate of the actor’s late daughter on behalf of McQueen’s granddaughter. The son and the daughter’s estate co-own the trademark rights and right of publicity for Steve McQueen. In the past, the family has worked to officially license automobiles and motorcycles bearing the actor’s name and image. McQueen’s rebellious image was tied to swift, skilled driving, making him an appealing image associated with automobile advertising.
Intellectual property can be a major issue for celebrities and multinational corporations, but it matters just as much to small businesses and entrepreneurs. Copyrights, trade secrets and trademarks can define a business, especially in the digital era. An intellectual property attorney can help a client protect their trademarks and ensure that they are defended from infringement.