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Intellectual Property, Unfair Competition and Publicity

Intellectual Property, Unfair Competition and Publicity

Convergences and Development

European Intellectual Property Institutes Network series

Edited by Nari Lee, Guido Westkamp, Annette Kur and Ansgar Ohly

Dealing with rights and developments at the margin of classic intellectual property, this fascinating book explores emerging types of regulations and how existing IP regimes inform and influence the judicial and legislative creation of “substitute” IP rights.

Chapter 5: Rights of publicity in the United States from Edison to Elvis to Paris (and every 15 minutes in-between)

Gary Rinkerman

Subjects: law - academic, intellectual property law


The value of celebrity and its value in association with commercial products and services were recognized and exploited long before formal legal doctrine thought it worthwhile to give recognition to, or create appropriate legal terminology to discuss, this commonplace "reality" of commerce. For example, the products and services that sought, in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century United States, to increase sales through use of an image of the beloved author "Mark Twain," are legion. They range from brands of cigars in the late 1800s to Pullman railroad passenger cars in 1904 and Oldsmobile automobiles in 1906. This specific tradition in commerce still thrives today as the makers of Montblanc pens use images of Mark Twain to sell their specially designed "Mark Twain" commemorative pens - the designs for which, of course, the long-deceased Twain never saw, held or endorsed. Still, the image and persona of Twain sells and his drawing power as a beloved American icon remains, at least in the U.S. market. Therefore, there will likely be more companies, both U.S. and non U.S., who will seek to sell and re-sell Twain's name and "image," along with their related or unrelated products.

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