Since pictures of her started appearing online a year ago, she has become one of the most universally recognized celebrities on the Internet. She has had signed deals to have a coffee drink named after her, and has reportedly already brought in at least $100,000 in licensing and endorsement deals. Now she has been signed as the new celebrity face of Friskies. She is, of course, Grumpy Cat.
The tiny young feline of indeterminate breed can be seen frowning in a thousand Internet memes. Soon she could be seen in ads for the cat food company, which is owned by industry giant Nestle Purina PetCare. The company would not reveal the amount it paid for the cat’s endorsement.
Of course, it’s not Grumpy Cat who’s signing all these deals or collecting the money: It’s her owner. Also, Grumpy Cat isn’t her real name. She’s really named Tardar Sauce, after the owner’s daughter’s misspelling of the condiment.
While celebrity endorsements, merchandising and licensing deals can bring great value to highly recognizable people – or in this case, a famous cat’s owner – they also raise issues of copyright, trademark and other intellectual property laws. These deals also involve what lawyers call the right of publicity, or the right to control the commercial use of one’s likeness. This is a specialized area of the law which touches on a lot of sensitive issues including freedom of speech and a person’s reputation in the community.
There are many factors to consider before signing a merchandising and licensing deal, and many more to discuss if a conflict comes up after signing. Knowing how to navigate these issues can help those looking to increase their pull can help maximize exposure and income. When people in Florida’s sports and entertainment industries have legal issues related to merchandising and licensing, they need help from professionals who understand the many issues at stake.
Source: CNN Money, “Grumpy Cat signs endorsement deal with Friskies,” Aaron Smith, Sept. 18, 2013