In the latest false advertising litigation involving a member of the Kardashian family, Kim Kardashian West has filed suit against an online retailer for using her name and image without permission to sell knockoff versions of her outfits.
According to her complaint, she, as a reality television celebrity, not only has been “immensely successful in developing and promoting” her own fashion and beauty products, but also is highly sought-after as a paid spokesperson for third-party products. She receives “enormous sums of money” (several hundred thousand dollars for a single social media post, and longer-term million-dollar endorsements) to promote various brands.
She told the court that online retailer Missguided has effectively turned her into an “unwitting and unwilling” spokesperson for its products by leveraging her celebrity status and social media following (at last count, more than 120 million followers on Instagram and close to 60 million followers on Twitter) without seeking her consent.
“Missguided, which sells clothing through the world on its … website, has become notorious for ‘knocking off’ the clothing worn by celebrities like Kardashian,” the plaintiff charged. “But Missguided does not merely replicate the looks of these celebrities as seen on red carpets, in paparazzi photos and in social media posts. Missguided systematically uses the names and images of Kardashian and other celebrities to advertise and spark interest in its website and clothing.”
The site features entire pages devoted solely to the sale of clothing inspired by Kardashian, on which her name and likeness are prominently used without her permission. Visitors to the site are even prompted to click a “Shop Kim K.” link. Missguided also repeatedly uses the plaintiff’s name and likeness without permission on its social media platforms, “purposefully” inserting her Instagram username into its posts to capitalize on her celebrity status and social media following to promote the sale of upcoming products, Kardashian alleged.
In addition, Missguided has “routinely” posted other photos of Kardashian—in some instances with her husband and children—that do not specifically solicit sales of a particular item of clothing, “but which function nevertheless to advertise Missguided’s brand and website” and are clearly intended to promote its products, the complaint charged.
“In fact, Missguided has gone so far as to emboss its ‘M’ logo on photographs of Kardashian and her family to promote its site and products,” which includes examples of the defendant’s social media posts and website.
The company “has so systematically misappropriated Kardashian’s name and likeness” that the consumer public is likely to come to the mistaken conclusion that she is actually affiliated with Missguided and working hand in hand with the company, Kardashian alleged. The complaint pointed to a recent blog post querying whether the site’s use of her image was “an example of ‘a thinly veiled collab’ at play between Missguided and Kim K.”
Alleging violation of Kardashian’s right of publicity as well as trademark infringement, the suit seeks no less than $10 million in damages and an injunction against the use the reality TV star’s name, image and likeness.
To read the complaint in Kimsaprincess, Inc. v. Missguided USA, click here.
Why it matters: Kardashian and others have made it clear that they will police online advertising that seeks to improperly capitalize on their celebrity status. Marketers should be aware of the risks and the financial exposure.