Ariana Grande v. Forever 21: Claims of Copyright Infringement and False Endorsement

Ariana Grande Sues Forever 21 Over Copyright Infringement

Forever 21 is being sued again for copyright infringement, but this time it’s not over clothes.  Forever 21, a well-known clothing retailer, is no stranger to the courtroom.  Known for selling trendy clothes at very low prices, the retailer has often been accused of infringing the copyrights of other clothing lines that are more expensive or exclusive.  

Forever 21 Seeks Ariana Grande Endorsement in Social Media Campaign 

As Forever 21 has been successful in selling to a large demographic that ranges from teenagers to shoppers in their mid-30’s, the brand had recently been in talks with music star Ariana Grande to launch a social media campaign using her likeness in association with Forever 21’s products.  When the two were unable to reach an agreement, however, Forever 21 proceeded to launch the social media campaign that was still heavily themed, allegedly, around Grande’s likeness.

Grande Sues Forever 21 for Copyright Infringement, Right of Publicity, False Endorsement….

Grande is suing both under state law and federal law, claiming that Forever 21 is guilty of false endorsement, copyright infringement, trademark infringement, and violating California’s right of publicity laws.  Specifically, Grande is claiming that after talks broke down due to Forever 21’s unwillingness to pay Grande what her likeness was worth, Forever 21 still went ahead and launched the campaign that was supposed to feature Grande, merely substituting another model that looks like Grande, but continuing to use the posts and themes heavily related to Grande on Forever 21’s Twitter and Instagram posts.  

As such, Grande is claiming that Forever 21’s campaign is misleading and illegally capitalizes off of the star’s popularity with the target audience as well as off the success of Grande’s latest album “thank you, next” because the model featured in the social media campaign not only looks like Grande but is purposefully dressed in a clothing top and hairstyle that is “strikingly” similar to the ones worn by Grande in her recent music video for her song, “7 Rings.”  

Copyright Infringement Claims Against Forever 21: Use of Grande’s Song, Lyrics, and Image

Moreover, Grande argues that the infringement is purposeful as the posts from the social media campaign actually use audio from Grande’s “7 Rings” song, contains lyrics from “7 Rings,” and also has the model photographed in a stance that Grande is “well-known” for.  As such, Grande is claiming that the social media campaign misleads consumers into believing that Grande endorses Forever 21’s clothing and accessories when no such endorsement exists.  Grande also complains that Forever 21 refused to remove the contested social media campaign posts even after being informed that Grande was objecting to its use as infringement of her IP rights.  

Forever 21’s Copyright and IP Infringement Lawsuit Raises IP and Social Media Marketing Concerns

As social media continues to increasingly dominate market channels of advertising, celebrity endorsements and lawsuits over them have become more frequent in number.  For example, Kim Kardashian had been in a long legal dispute with Old Navy over similar issues before both parties agreed to a settlement.  While social media is a quick and easy avenue to push out marketing and advertising efforts, companies should take care not to disseminate material that could be seen as infringing on the copyrights, the likeness, or other intellectual property of another, especially a celebrity. 

As it currently stands, Grande is claiming at least $10 million in damages.  Both counsel and brand owners will benefit to follow this case as it raises important legal issues and is at the cross-section of intellectual property law and social media advertising and rights.       

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