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Licensing company finds itself in big 'Messi' over player's image

As some of our California readers know from past posts, businesses usually have to get a celebrity’s permission before they can use images of their likeness. Often done through a contract, the celebrity gives their consent to use their image such as for marketing or even for merchandise. But when the proper licenses are not acquired from company to company, litigation is almost always around the corner.

This is the case for a licensing company in Virginia this month. Recently, it was brought to their attention that they did not have the proper licensing to print posters with the images of famous soccer players such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Andrés Messi and Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior. Now facing possible litigation for licensing infringement from an FC Barcelona licensee, the company is trying to prove that it was not their fault that the licenses were infringed upon.

The company, bCreative, points to a man it met at a tradeshow in 2013. According to a complaint filed by bCreative, the man claimed to have licensing rights to the images. After settling on a deal with the man, bCreative paid two printing companies to print up posters that were distributed in Europe on December 1, 2013. It wasn’t until a few days later that the company learned that the licenses they had purchased did not cover the images they had printed, meaning they were infringing on existing rights.

Because of the potential for litigation from the FC Barcelona licensee and the team itself, bCreative is taking legal action against the man it claims tricked them into buying nonexistent licenses. According to the company, the man has not returned their calls and has now using a fabricated job termination as a way to dodge responsibility in the matter. bCreative is currently seeking compensatory as well as punitive damages.

Source: Courthouse News Service, “Big Mess Just in Time for World Cup,” Ryan Abbott, April 16, 2014

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