Who would have tonk it that there would be a time where clothing labels would beg and pay celebrities “substantial” amount of money to not wear their designs. That is exactly what we have in this case where Abercrombie & Fitch (A & F) now begs Michael Sorrentino, popularly known as the “The Situation,” not to wear their clothing.
Wait! Isn’t this the same A &F who gladly capitalized on Sorrentino wearing their merchandize, almost exclusively, on the Jersey Shore show? The Situation since the onset of the show in 2009, almost exclusively rocks A &F. A& F capitalizing on this fact SOLD “Fitchuation” t-shirts, last year. So, what’s with the new holier than thou attitude? Wasn’t it foreseeable that The Situation would not conform his personality or value systems to be preppy as the A & F brand would now like to project?
The above is view #1. Now on to view #2.
From A &F’s view, it was fun while it lasted but now they want out. They want out and they are doing so by taking an interesting strategy applied through their PR full court press. Rather than run off to a law court to sue The Situation, they are saying via PR, we are willing to pay you “a substantial amount” if you will sign a contract to stop wearing our clothing.
For UDUAK LAW FIRM FASHION ENTLAW.COM ANALYSIS ON ELEMENTS OF A CONTRACT, WITH A FOCUS ON BREACH, CLICK HERE.
Within their press release, they essentially, through the backdoor via a PR meets the law Situation going on, shine the spotlight on what is known as the Dilution Doctrine in Trademark law.
So folks, let’s break it down a bit so you get it.
What Trademark Law Applies Here?
The 1995 Federal Trademark Dilution Act (FTDA)
What Does the FTDA Do?
The FTDA gives you the owner of a famous mark protection against copycats, even if your fans or customers do not suffer from a “Likelihood of Confusion” illness .
Why Would Lawmakers Even Push and Approve Such a Law?
Congress essentially said, “look, we realize that people might try to weaken the brand that you have worked so hard to make all that and a bag of chips. We got your back. Totally. How about we define dilution to mean “the lessening of the capacity of a famous mark to identify and distinguish goods or services.?” Do You Like That?
Here is what the real scoop people, stay with me.
Assume you are A &F. You allegedly do preppy very well. You’ve got The Situation being anything but preppy and affiliating his very “unpreppified” self with you. You can sue him (this is a hypothetical we have not necessarily seen a case where stars are sued not to wear a brand). But, for illustration purposes, basically, you as A &F wanted to sue, you can sue under the Trademark dilution doctrine.
The argument would be as follows:
1. I don’ know you from Adam and who cares if you are The Situation? Bottom line, you weakened my brand and brand strength with how you keep perambulating your A&F boxers etc. in a not so preppy way on Jersey Shore.
2. Your actions are “blurring” my “famous mark.” In other words you are detracting from the uniqueness of my brand , AND
3. Your actions are “tarnish(ing)” my brand’s image. As A &F, I represent preppy, sexy cool and the way you are using my brand is negatively affecting A & F’s image for reputation and quality.
Now Let’s Wrap This Up!
If I am a fashion law judge or member of the fashion law jury, A& F lawyers better walk into my courtroom and be like the smartest lawyers from outer space. They will indeed have to work real hard to convince anyone in that courtroom there is a dilution problem with the A &F brand. Why? Needless to say, the first Exhibit from The Situation Defense team will be “The Fitchuation” t-shirts manufactured, produced, marketed and sold by A &F.
If you are The Situation, you not only going to put up a strong defense, you will and should counter sue for claims under Rights of Publicity, among other causes of actions.
So, you see why it made sense for A & F to go the press release route? On the PR end it is a win-win. The world now knows A &F seeks to disassociate itself from Jersey Shore and The Situation; and they feel sorry for The Situation is making a mockery of himself in their clothes. With empathy towards the A &F brand, more young people and their parents will surely purchase A&F.
Chi Ching! The PR strategist for A &F ought to be promoted or receive extra bonus, especially in this tough economy for increasing A &F’s bottom line.
ABC has the full story.