Ariana Grande Sues Over Trademark, Copyright Infringement

Music icon Ariana Grande sues Forever 21 for hiring a look-alike model in a social media campaign rather than paying contractual fees in earlier negotiations with the company.

Ariana Grande has filed a $10-million lawsuit against Forever 21, claiming the company hired a look-alike model in a series of Instagram posts that allegedly included visuals from the pop star’s video song “Thank U, Next,” according to The New York Times

A legal analyst cited in the Times’ article said Forever 21 might argue it is “simply mimicking a popular fashion trend” protected by First Amendment rights.

According to Grande’s lawsuit, Forever 21 reportedly contacted her agents on a possible endorsement contract using social media. The deal, however, fell through.

After Grande discovered the posts in question, Forever 21 purportedly agreed to take them down, but neglected to do so in a timely manner.

Living Media Ethics discusses similar cases concerning how far one company may go in using trademark or branding images. Advertising slogans often are the subject of similar lawsuits.

Here’s an excerpt:

Advertisers, in particular, have to be wary about “word baggage,” or the alteration of meanings caused by social mores and other influences. A word like “king,” in “The King of Beers,” once may have connoted “tops” as in the Baby Boomer generation childhood game “King of the Hill.” In the 1990s this particular Budweiser slogan no longer seemed to appeal to younger consumers who considered the word “king” too aggressive or arrogant, associating the product with their parents’ and grandparents’ generations. Nonetheless, Anheuser-Busch had invested millions in establishing its trademark and filed a notice of opposition in 2015 when a California company, She Beverage,” attempted to trademark its beer “Queen of Beer.”

The Ariana Grande lawsuit will test whether her icon status allows copycat advertising protected by the First Amendment or whether her branding claims supersede that argument according to caselaw on trademark and copyright infringement.


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