Ninth Circuit Upholds Dismissal of Charity's Lawsuit Contesting Franklin Mint's Use of Princess Diana's Likeness

Profession:Reed Smith Hall Dickler

The Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals upheld a district court ruling dismissing a lawsuit brought by the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund, which accused the Franklin Mint of unlawfully using Diana's likeness on dolls, jewelry, plates, sculptures and its advertisements for its products. The Franklin Mint first began selling products with Diana's image in 1981, without authorization or objection from Princess Diana. After her death, her estate granted the Fund the exclusive right to authorize the use of Diana's likeness, and the Franklin Mint never obtained authorization from the Fund, although it did grant authorization to some twenty other entities.

In its June 19, 2002 decision [pdf format], written by Judge Harry Pregerson, the Circuit Court agreed to disallow the Fund a claim for "right of post-mortem publicity" under California Civil Code ß 3344.1(a)(1) ó which maintains that companies must get consent from the deceased's estate to sell products with the deceased's likeness ó finding instead that the applicable law is that of Great Britain, which does not recognize the right.

The Ninth Circuit also upheld the trial court's dismissal of the Fund's allegation of false endorsement, which concerns whether consumers could be confused as to whether the products received the endorsement of the deceased's estate...

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