Bogart’s trench coat cause for trademark controversy

The movie “Casablanca” is one of Humphrey Bogart’s most famous movies. Seventy years later, the image of Bogart’s sporting a hat and trench is still seen everywhere. It is also the subject of an intellectual property lawsuit between his heirs and the makers of the famous coat.

Burberry Group and Bogart’s relatives are suing and countersuing in a California Superior Court and a New York federal court over trademark infringement. The coat is often associated with the actor’s persona, according to Bogart’s family.

United Kingdom-based Burberry claims it paid licensing fees to use a picture of Bogart in the Burberry coat in a social media company timeline. Bogart LLC — owned by the actor’s children and his widow, actress Lauren Bacall — says Burberry crossed line by using the image for commercial purposes.

Burberry argues it did not use the “Casablanca” image of the actor to sell merchandise and did not violate any trademark rights owned by his family. Burberry wants a federal judge to agree that Bogart’s relatives do not “possess” the rights they are trying to defend.

According to court filings, Burberry was contacted by Bogart LLC at least three times since last month. The heirs reportedly ordered Burberry to cease using the image and requested a financial settlement.

Burberry drew a distinction between the employment of the trench-coat image in a historical timeline and a commercial advertisement. The coat maker believes the company’s use of the iconic image to highlight Burberry’s influence on the past is covered by the First Amendment of the Constitution.

Source: Bloomberg, “Butamax, Pfizer, Burberry, BitTorrent: Intellectual Property,” Victoria Slind-Flor, May 4, 2012