'Brando' Boots: Marlon Brando Estate Sues Harley-Davidson

By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on May 19, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Whether best remembered for his role as a Roman politician or an Italian Mobster, Marlon Brando is a household name.

Which is probably why the trust that has been tasked with overseeing his posthumous image has filed suit against Harley-Davidson, alleging that the motorcycle giant is misappropriating his likeness.

They've come out with a new line of motorcycle boots called "The Brando."

Filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court, the Associated Press is reporting that the lawsuit requests an injunction to stop Harley-Davidson from manufacturing and selling the Brando Boots, as well as punitive damages and profits.

Apparently the boots are similar to a pair worn by Marlon Brando when he played a rebel bike gang leader in 1953's The Wild One.

Though the legal cause of action underlying the Brando Boots lawsuit is called "misappropriation of likeness," the concept of "likeness" actually encompasses any physical and non-physical characteristic that a person would reasonably identify as belonging to a specific person.

In California, which has the most liberal and established laws on the right to one's own image, the tort not only covers the unauthorized use of a celebrity's name, physical attributes, voice, catchphrases and signature, but also close approximations that an ordinary person would confuse as being the real thing.

Whether the Brando Boots have violated these laws by misappropriating the likeness of Marlon Brandon remains to be seen, but between the name and the similarity to the boots the actor once wore in a movie, Harley-Davidson is probably in for a tough fight.

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