Katherine Heigl image via Wikipedia
Is a tweet worth $6 million? According to Katherine Heigl, the answer is “Yes.” The movie star filed a multi-million lawsuit against New York City’s favorite drug store Duane Reade this week, claiming the company improperly used her name and paparazzi photo to promote their brand. Initially, the actress tried to settle the matter privately, but it quickly moved to court.
On March 18, Duane Reade tweeted: “Love a quick #DuaneReade run? Even @KatieHeigl can’t resist shopping #NYC’s favorite drugstore.” The tweet included a photo of Heigl carrying a Duane Reade shopping bag on a street in Manhattan.
Unfortunately, the company made the $6 million mistake of tagging Heigl. According Us Weekly, Heigl’s attorneys contacted Duane Reade after the tweet was posted asking that it be taken down, and Duane Reade ignored them. In fact, the complaint alleges violations of the Lanham Act, a statute that protects public figures from deceptive advertising that tries to trick consumers into thinking they endorsed a product.
"We expect Duane Reade to pay for its willful misuse of Katherine Heigl's name and likeness," Peter Haviland, trial counsel for the star, said in a press release.
An excerpt of the lawsuit states:
The purpose of Defendant’s social media activities is commercial advertising aimed at attracting customers and revenue, especially social media savvy customers in the coveted young adult demographics….Defendant’s Tweets predominantly promote commercial advertisements for a wide range of its products and services.
Marc S. Reiner, a trademark and copyright lawyer at Moss & Kalish PLLC, told The Wall Street Journal he’s skeptical of that argument, saying he thinks the complaint blurs the distinction between advertising and communications.
“It may (or may not) be improper for Duane Reade to pay for ads that show Heigl shopping at Duane Reade. But that is not the same as someone from Duane Reade telling a newspaper interviewer that celebrities such as Heigl have been in the store,” he explained. “You often see companies, usually smaller ones, touting the appearance of their products in connection with celebrities.”
According to Reiner, Duane Reade simply communicated to the public that the actress had shopped at one of its stores. “Any communication from a company is meant to increase sales or at least make a positive association with that company’s brand.”
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