Marilyn Monroe estate sues marketplace sellers over fakes

Almost 60 years after her death, Marilyn Monroe remains an iconic figure whose likeness adorns countless products – most of which contravene trademarks held by her state.

Two separate lawsuits filed in an Atlanta court are now seeking millions of dollars in redress from hundreds of online marketplaces that they claim sell counterfeit products bearing Monroe's image or the use of phrases associated with the star such as "diamonds are a girl's best friend."

The actress, model, and singer – whose films grossed approximately $200m by the time of her death in 1962 – has been named the sixth greatest female screen legend in American film history by the American Film Institute.

The two lawsuits have been brought by The Estate of Marilyn Monroe LLC, a Delaware-based company which is current owner of the global trademark portfolio of Monroe.

Commercial rights are owned by Authentic Brands Group, which was founded in 2010 to pick up rights to brands that along with Monroe include Elvis Presley, Muhammad Ali, Shaquille O’Neal, and Prince, amongst others. The portfolio generates close to $14bn in annual worldwide revenues.

"In marketing and selling their goods in commerce in the US, defendants have used in connection with their goods a false designation of origin that is likely to cause confusion, to cause mistake, or to deceive others to believe that [the goods] are sponsored by, approved by, originate with, or are affiliated with" the rights holder.

The lawsuits acknowledge that the defendants are anonymous and known only by their unique marketplace name and identification number on platforms – including "Alibaba, AliExpress, DHGate, Amazon, eBay, Joom, and/or Wish".

Any award that may be forthcoming is likely to symbolic as – in common with most cases of this type – it can be almost impossible to trace the owners of the marketplace accounts.

For that reason, legislation has been introduced in the US that would help secure supply chains and keep counterfeit merchandise off third-party marketplaces.

The Integrity, Notification, and Fairness in Online Retail Marketplaces for Consumers (INFORM) Act, if passed, would require sellers on e-commerce platforms to disclose basic information, including their government ID, tax ID, bank account information, and contact details.

The marketplaces themselves would also need to supply a hotline to allow customers to report any suspicious activity.

Photo by Jarvik Joshi on Unsplash

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