Ariana Grande Sues Forever 21 for $10 Million Over “Look-alike” Marketing Campaign

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Global superstar Ariana Grande is suing the fast-fashion retailer Forever 21 for $10 million according to a lawsuit filed earlier this month, after the fast-fashion firm allegedly “stole her name, likeness and other intellectual property to promote their brands for free.”

Over a period of almost six months (from November 30, 2018 until at least April 17, 2019), Forever 21 shared at least 30 images of Ms Grande on their Instagram account (@forever21) as well as using image captions quoting the singer’s lyrics, and overlaying posts with excerpts from the multi-platinum selling single 7 Rings. Additionally, it is claimed that Forever 21 purposely hired a “look-alike model” who was styled in clothing and a “distinctive hair accessory” both designed and emulate the singer's well-known image, as well as posing the model alongside in a “virtually identical” manner. The complaint then goes on to state that this shows a “clear intent” to suggest to the public that Ariana Grande was affiliated with Forever 21 and endorsed their products.

Images from court documents

Images from court documents

In light of Forever 21’s actions, a six-part claim for relief has been submitted, stating that the clothing brand have violated Ms Grande’s statutory Right of Publicity (Cal. Civ. Code §3344) and Common Law Right of Publicity; committed offenses of False Endorsement and Trademark Infringement (15 U.S.C. §1125(a) and §1114(1) respectively); committed Common Law Trademark Infringement and also committed Copyright Infringement. All but one of the claims seeks damages of “no less” than $10 million, with some also including a request for treble damages on the grounds that Forever 21 acted “willfully, knowingly and maliciously” to deceive and confuse the relevant public. The claims also requests that the damages sought ought to be “punitive and exemplary” to “punish and deter” such acts.

According to the complaint filed by Ms Grande’s legal team, the singer was previously in discussions with Forever 21 - and sister brand Riley Rose - about an official partnership, however the the brand were unable “unwilling” to pay the “fair market value” for Ms Grande’s celebrity status which, according to documents filed, is “several hundred thousand dollars” for one single social media post cost brands and “millions” for longer-term endorsements. The claim goes on to outline the financial decline of the LA-based clothing company, who are preparing to close over 100 stores and are allegedly heading towards bankruptcy, and claims that the unauthorised use of Ms Grande’s image and likeness were a “desperate attempt to stay relevant and profitable”. Ouch.

Over, the facts of this case are not dissimilar to those in the recent Kim Kardashian-West v Missguided case, which ruled in reality stars favour to the tune of $2.8 million. We’d be surprised to see the case at hand resolved any other way, given the precedent now set, but we know better than to predict the actions of any court… More on this soon, we suspect.

Written by guest writer Stephanie Kelly