Navigating and Protecting Your Company on the Red Carpet

By Gabriella Khorasanee, JD on February 28, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The Oscars are this weekend, and while people may forget who won what award, the adoring public will undoubtedly remember who and what they wore. I mean, the red carpet even has its own police force.

While the red carpet, the ensuing paparazzi chaos, and magazine coverage are entertaining, for attorneys working for large fashion companies, it's definitely not all fun and games. As Vera Wang told Vanity Fair, dressing a starlet for the Oscars is a "gamble of the highest order." There's much more to it than just a pretty dress or earrings.

Here are some legal issues to keep in mind as we watch the red carpet on Sunday...

Exclusivity Arrangements

Does your company have an exclusive arrangement with any celebrities? If so, you (or your admin or paralegal) need to keep an eye on those red carpet photos. For example, when Charlize Theron was the face of Raymond Weil watches, she agreed to not wear any other watch brand in public back, but was photographed wearing a Dior watch during the term of the contract reports the National Law Journal. As a result, in 2007 Raymond Weil sued Charlize Theron, and the court granted the watchmaker's motion for summary judgment, with the two parties settling on a damages amount, reports E!.

FTC Endorsement Guidelines

In 2009, the FTC released Revised Endorsement Guides -- likely because of the changing face of endorsements in light of the popularity of blogging and social media. According to the FTC's information relating to the Guide, when speaking about celebrity endorsements, it states:

It depends on whether [the celebrity's] readers understand he's being paid to endorse that product. If they know he's a paid endorser, no disclosure is needed. But if a significant number of his readers don't know that, a disclosure would be needed. Determining whether followers are aware of a relationship could be tricky in many cases, so a disclosure is recommended.

So, according to the FTC, if your company is in an endorsement deal with a celebrity, for transparency purposes, make sure that outgoing communications from the company, as well as the celebrity, comply with FTC guidelines.

Use of Red Carpet Photos

Two problems arise with the use of celebrity red carpet photos. In the first instance, let's say your company doesn't have a deal with a celebrity, but they are wearing your company's brand and your company wants to publicize it. Be careful that your company's publication cannot be construed as an advertisement, because you may end up in a right to publicity lawsuit.

You must also be cognizant of the photographer's copyrights to the photo -- be sure to get the appropriate permissions or licenses before using a red carpet photo that someone from your company did not take.

While most of us get to sit on our couch, in our sweatpants, and comment on the most beautiful, well-dressed people in the world, for in-house attorneys working for fashion companies, it's just another day at the office.

How does your company handle and police celebrity endorsement deals? Let us know on Facebook on our FindLaw for Legal Professionals page.

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