Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Haelan Laboratories Inc. v. Topps Chewing Gum, Inc. case brief summary

Haelan Laboratories Inc. v. Topps Chewing Gum, Inc. (Right of Publicity)

F: Plaintiff manufacturer and baseball players entered into contracts that provided plaintiff with the exclusive right to use players' photographs in connection with plaintiff's gum sales. The players were not to grant any other gum manufacturer a similar right during such term, and plaintiff had an option to extend the term. Defendant manufacturer induced the players to enter into contracts that authorized defendant to use the players' photographs in connection with sales of defendant's gum during the original and extended term of plaintiff's contracts. Defendant then used the players' photographs.
-Contract between plaintiff and players as waiver of the right of privacy.
-Third party! No tortious interference. Defendant not directly involved.
  • The court reversed the district court's dismissal and remanded the matter to the district court for a determination of the date and contents of each of plaintiff's contracts, whether plaintiff exercised its option to renew, and of defendant's or its agent's conduct with respect to each such contract.
  • Further, defendant was not liable for any breach induced by a non-agent.
  • The court recognized the right of publicity, which was in addition to the right to privacy, and this right to publication of a picture could have been subject to exclusive rights contracts under New York law.
-First case to acknowledge the right of publicity as kind of a property right. Can be conveyed. You can exclude others. Once you have conveyed your right of publicity exclusively, you don’t have it anymore.
-Court aligns itself with some of the underlying CR/patent theories. Right to use the persona one has built up. Fruits of her labors, e.g. Paris Hilton. Extension of her personality/being. Utilitarian: Do we want to incentivize people to create valuable personas. Need/desire to reward people for this.

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