While there are no image rights in English law, celebrities typically rely on the tort of passing off to restrain the unauthorized use of their images in a commercial context. However, in 2015, the UK Supreme Court in Starbucks (HK) v Sky ruled that mere reputation is not enough to succeed in an action for passing off and that claimants must show goodwill in the form of customers within the country.
This article critically examines the potential impact that the decision in Starbucks (HK) could have on the ability of celebrities to rely on the tort of passing off in English courts. It highlights some of the criticisms against this decision including suggestions that a distinction should be drawn between commercial traders on the one hand and celebrities on the other hand, with regard to the question of establishing goodwill.
This article contends that both transnational businesses and global celebrities should be required to show goodwill. This will help maintain the balance between the public interest in free competition and the protection of the trader/celebrity against passing off.
Emmanuel K Oke, Image rights and passing off: should reputation be enough for celebrities to succeed in English courts?, Journal of Intellectual Property Law and Practice, https://doi-org.ucc.idm.oclc.org/10.1093/jiplp/jpz143. Published: 5 November 2019.