Celebrity endorsements can be very lucrative deals for Florida entertainers and athletes. However, when companies try to promote their product or their organization by using a celebrity’s prestige without authorization, those celebrities may experience negative impacts on their careers. Many cases in entertainment law involve the unlawful use of a celebrity’s image by companies who seek to make gains at the unknowing celebrity’s expense.

Movie star Halle Berry is suing a company known as Toywatch S.p.A. for allegedly using her image and name, without her permission, to market and sell watches. Berry claims that Toywatch’s acts have violated both her privacy and trademark rights. It is rumored that Toywatch’s defense is that the company and Berry have what is known as a barter agreement by which the company gives Berry free products in exchange for use of her persona for advertisement and sales. Berry’s representatives deny the existence of such an agreement and claim that Berry accepts such products simply as gifts and often does not even keep the items. Additionally, her attorneys urge that Berry’s acceptance of gifts in no way indicates her consent for Toywatch to use her image or name.

Celebrity endorsement deals often require licensing contracts between the entertainer and the company seeking to use the entertainer’s image or persona. Unlicensed use of a celebrity’s likeness to advertise a product may raise legal issues of privacy, among other concerns. In addition, absent an endorsement deal, entertainers and athletes may find their image being used for a product or initiative that the celebrity does not support. This was an issue raised in Berry’s case because the star claims she never consents to endorsement of a company or product unless she supports the product.

Being associated with ads that are inconsistent with a celebrity’s principles or goals can have a major impact on the celebrity’s career. In addition, the unauthorized use of a celebrity’s persona is a lost opportunity for that individual to earn money. For these reasons, protecting entertainer’s rights to their own image is essential. If an unauthorized use is discovered, Florida attorneys experienced in entertainment law can help celebrities take necessary steps to minimize damage, protect rights and remedy any damage caused.

Source: The Hollywood Reporter, “Halle Berry Lawsuit: Any Such Thing as a Free Celebrity Gift,” Eriq Gardner, June 26, 2014