Monday, 20 April 2009

Manhattan in May, will AA have to pay?

Manhattan in May is a great place to be. Central Park is in full bloom as spring turns to summer while Fashionista and her friends test out their wardrobes in the warming sun. But it's not such a fun time and place for humourist and film director Woody Allen, since that's when he confronts his nemesis American Apparel in court.

The Guardian reports that Allen has launched a $10m lawsuit against American Apparel which, he says, has used his images in an advertising campaign without his permission. Allen, who does not endorse products in the US, has branded the clothing firm's campaigns "sleazy", "adolescent" and "infantile" and that the use of his image, by falsely implying endorsement of American Apparel's "low-end" products, has damaged his reputation.

Above: the advertisement at the heart of the dispute

American Apparel's lawyers see no problem. They say Allen has no reputation to ruin, having had an affair with his stepdaughter Soon-Yi Previn. As part of its case American Apparel is demanding documents relating to any advertising endorsements that were cancelled or withdrawn following the revelation of Allen's affair with Soon-Yi, whom he married in 1997. Is this legitimate? Not according to Allen's lawyers, who say this request is "vexatious, oppressive, harassing" -- and irrelevant.

While American Apparel has apologised for any offence it may have caused, the company does not propose to be parted from the $10 million claimed by Allen. Aficionados of damages assessments may be pondering over whether $10 million is that far wide of the mark. The trouble is, in cases such as this the courts like to be guided by things like how much celebrity's current endorsement value is. Where no endorsements are given, this convenient rule of thumb is unavailable. Fashionista, who will be watching this saga with interest, wonders how much AA would have had to pay Woody Allen to get his consent?...