Gucci family hints at litigation again as House of Gucci hits theaters

Gucci family members have hinted at potential litigation related to the highly anticipated Gucci outlet last week. Following the debut of the film directed by Ridley Scott, which stars Lady Gaga, Adam Driver, Jared Leto and Al Pacino, among others, the heirs of former Gucci President Aldo Gucci issued a statement, released for the first time by Italian media, slamming the film – for the second time this year – as “carrying a far from exact narrative” and as describing “a tone and attitude towards the protagonists of the well-known events which do not have never belonged “.

“The production of the film did not bother to consult the heirs before describing Aldo Gucci”, who was the “president of the company for 30 years, and the members of the Gucci family as thugs, ignorant and insensitive to the world around them, “the Gucci family’s statement said, further claiming that the film – which is largely based on Sara Gay Forden’s book The House of Gucci – is” extremely painful in a way. of human perspective and an insult to the legacy on which the brand is built today.

“Gucci is a family that lives to honor the work of its ancestors, whose memory does not deserve to be disturbed to put on a show that is fake and that does not do justice to its protagonists,” the statement continued, revealing finally that “the members of the Gucci family reserve the right to take measures to protect the name, image and dignity of themselves and of those close to them.

What rights does the family have?

As to whether the Gucci family members have legal grounds to sue in the United States, where the production and distribution companies relevant to the film and its directors / producers are located, it seems unlikely. First, it should be noted that while the Gucci family retains the ability to use their last name in a personal capacity, the majority of the Gucci trademark rights – for use on everything from clothing and accessories to consumer services. retail stores, etc. – are owned by Kering. After all, the French luxury goods conglomerate acquired a controlling 42% stake in the Gucci Group in 1999 for $ 3 billion following a long and very public battle with its luxury rival for the brand. Later in 2003, Kering increased its stake in Gucci Group to 67.6%, then again in 2004 to 99.4%. (For a full look at Kering’s quest for the Gucci Group, you can find it here.)

As the brand owner, which is the entity that actually and consistently uses the Gucci brand in commerce across a range of goods and services, Kering’s rights almost certainly outweigh those of family members. Gucci from a brand perspective. This is true in the United States, and in other jurisdictions as well.

With trademark infringement claims almost certainly ruled out, the Gucci family probably could not assert a viable right to advertising-focused claims either. As TFL has previously reported, while the right to publicity provides individuals with a cause of action in connection with the unauthorized exploitation of their recognizable names, likenesses and personality traits, that exploitation must take place for commercial purposes. . This would be a problem for any unamused Gucci offspring, because unlike the unauthorized use of their likenesses on a product, for example, which could result in a successful publicity right, films are a means of expression, and it is well established that “the public interest in preserving such expression outweighs the private interests of individuals in the commercial value of their publicity rights”.

It is not known whether they would be lucky in Italian courts for reasons of publicity law, as the family members depicted Aldo and Rodolfo Gucci are dead, and “if the publicity right is descending under the Italian law has been the subject of much debate, ”according to Lowenstein’s lawyer Matthew Savare. Researchers have expressed mixed views as to whether the right to publicity remains in effect after an individual dies and, therefore, becomes an actionable asset for successors. They are traditionally divided into three camps: those who believe that under Italian law the right dies with the individual in question; those who consider that it survives a person’s death and then lasts 50 years; and those who believe that the right extends beyond the death of a person only if it has been exploited commercially during the life of the individual.

That said, the Gucci family may not be entirely without recourse if the film does include “inaccuracies” resulting from defamatory portrayal of individual members, as Ms. Gucci puts it in the book. The use of defamation claims in the context of the film is not without existing examples.

Other costumes inspired by the film

According to Weintraub Tobin’s attorney, Scott Hervey, “There have been a significant number of defamation complaints which are all based on an unfavorable portrayal of a real person in a work of fiction – a TV show or a movie – which is based on real life events. “Although they were not necessarily successful for the filing parties. Hervey points to the case that the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca & Co. and its partners Jürgen Mossack and Ramón Fonseca have filed against Netflix on the basis of their portrayal in the 2019 Netflix film directed by Steven Soderbergh, “The Laundromat.” The plaintiffs claimed in their October 2019 trademark infringement and libel complaint that Netflix “defames and portrays [them] as ruthless and indifferent lawyers who are involved in money laundering, tax evasion, corruption and / or other criminal behavior ”, and dilutes the firm’s brand by using the law firm logo in the Panama Papers movie without permission.

Siding with Netflix in December 2020, a California federal court dismissed the plaintiffs’ libel claims on the grounds that “no reasonable viewer of the film would interpret [it] as conveying “objective fact statements”, especially given the statement at the start of the film “Based on real secrets” which features and the disclaimer at the end of the film which states that the film is fiction for dramatization and is not intended to reflect an actual person or story. And while “a reasonable viewer would consider the film to be statements of true fact,” Judge Consuelo Marshall of the United States District Court for the Central District of California ruled that the film “does not portray the plaintiffs as being directly involved in the murders. , drug cartels. , and other criminal activities committed by their clients, as indicated in the complaint. ”

Not a total victory for Netflix, the court order left the trademark dilution and bogus advertising claims of the plaintiffs on the table because they did not fall within the scope of Netflix’s anti-SLAPP motion. (The viability of trademark claims would of course not help members of the Gucci family, as the Gucci brand owns these rights.)

In a separate but similar action, Andrew Greene – who was the head of the corporate finance department at Jordan Belfort’s Stratton Oakmont between 1993 and 1996 – sued Paramount Pictures and the producers of the The wolf of Wall Street film in 2014 for allegedly including a character based on him – Nicky Koskoff – and defaming him in the process by causing that character to engage in “unsavory and illegal behavior”.

Paramount prevailed in the case, with a New York federal court dismissing the more than $ 25 million summary judgment lawsuit. In her December 2018 order, Judge Joanna Seybert of the US District Court for the Eastern District of New York said that “based on the fictionalized nature of the film; the undisputed facts that Koskoff’s character is a three person character and has a different name, nickname, work history, personal history, and criminal background than [Greene]; [and] the film’s warning, “among other things, Greene” cannot bear his burden of demonstrating actual malice with clear and convincing evidence “, and thus,” his libel charge fails. “

The family versus filmmaker feud is not the first of its kind in fashion. The current feud, which for now is contained in a media room, is reminiscent of the one that erupted when Tom Rob Smith and Ryan Murphy shared the story of Gianni Versace’s murder on FX. In this case, the Italian fashion family distanced itself from the small-screen portrayal and formally claimed that it had “neither authorized nor any involvement of any kind in” the series. And beyond that, the late Pierre Berge contested films about his partner Yves Saint Laurent, although Berge’s protest led to at least one trial.

As for Black Widow, herself, Patrizia Reggiani was coined by Italian media during the trial for her role in a murder for pay plot targeting her ex-husband, Maurizio Gucci, the former member of fashion and the leather goods. -the famous Gucci family says they have no plans to press charges, and that from now on, neither did the family.

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