Here’s this week’s brand identification test. Study carefully the following image of Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman taken from a scene in the classic movie Casablanca.
Now answer the following multiple-choice question. Is Bogie’s trench-coat:
a) A Burberry?
b) An Aquascutum?
c) Neither of these?
If a), Burberry could be in serious trouble. And certainly the Bogart estate, represented by 63-year-old son of the actor, Stephen Bogart, thinks it should be. So much so that the estate is suing Burberry over trademark infringement (that’s Bogie’s trademark, not the trench-coat’s) after the London fashion house allegedly purloined an image of the actor wearing the coat for a Facebook page.
Not so, says Burberry. It has riposted with a counter-suit alleging the picture of ‘Bogie’ was a historical reference in a timeline, and protected under America’s First Amendment, which guarantees freedom of speech.
Lawyer Michael Crain, representing the Bogart estate, reckons his client’s case case is historic because it tackles the issue of identity theft in social media. But that will only be so if Burberry fails to establish that its purpose in using the image was educational, and therefore not commercial.
A more nagging question for brand buffs – and perhaps for Burberry itself – is whether Bogie’s coat, which makes its appearance in the closing scenes of the 1942 movie classic, is actually a Burberry.
Young Stephen raises the tantalising prospect that it is not. “It is well known,” he tells us cryptically, “that my father was a loyal Aquascutum customer in his personal life.”
So, perhaps Aquascutum should get in on the legal gravy-train as well. Who knows? It could end up costing Burberry millions of dollars.