Legal Blogs

Invasion of Privacy – Wrongful Use of Name & Likeness

If someone is using your name or likeness in connection with the sale of goods or other advertising, they may be liable under California law for “Invasion of Privacy.”   The right of publicity is a form of intellectual property distinct from trademark and copyright that protects against the unauthorized use of a person’s name, voice, signature, photograph or likeness in connection with commercial activity.  California Civil Code Section 3344(a).

Invasion of Privacy – Wrongful Use of Name & Likeness

Invasion of privacy claims allow for the recovery of damages caused, profits wrongfully earned by the adverse party, injunction, punitive damages and attorneys’ fees.  “Any person who knowingly uses another’s name, voice, signature, photograph, or likeness, in any manner, on or in products, merchandise, or goods, or for purposes of advertising… without such person’s prior consent” shall be liable for damages and attorney’s fees (and potentially punitive damages).  Civil Code Section 3344(a).

The statutory remedy for the unauthorized commercial use of another’s name was also intended to fill a gap which existed in the common law tort of invasion of privacy as it applied to noncelebrity plaintiffs whose names lacked commercial value on the open market, whose damages would be difficult to prove and who suffer primarily mental harm from the commercial misappropriation of their names. Miller v. Collectors Universe, Inc., 159 Cal.App.4th 988 (2008).

Injunctive relief and restitution (including “disgorgement”) are the primary remedies available to private parties bringing unfair competition claims. Restitution encompasses disgorgement of all “wrongful gains” obtained by the defendant, even without certification of a plaintiff class or a showing that anyone actually suffered harm. People v. Thomas Shelton Powers, M.D., Inc., 2 Cal.App.4th 330, 341-44 (1992). Sections 17200 and 17500 do not by their terms authorize attorneys’ fees, and at least one court has denied fees on this basis. Shadoan v. World Savings & Loan, 219 Cal. App. 3d 97, 108 n.7 (1990).

Getting Legal Help

These types of claims are complex, but also have many potential remedies which can add up to a significant recovery.  The business litigation attorneys of Brown & Charbonneau, LLP can help.  Call us today to learn more about your case  at 714-505-3000.

Brown & Charbonneau, LLP represents individuals as well as large and small companies in cases involving all forms business disputes and claims involving wrongful use of name and likeness. If you are involved in a such a dispute, or would like to learn about your rights and how to protect your interests, we can provide you with the information you need.