Orange County - Ashley Furniture Industries Inc. was swatted down by a judge Tuesday in its attempt to net a summary judgment win on claims that it had violated trademarks owned by famed actor Humphrey Bogart's estate.
The Georgia federal judge allowed intellectual property holding company Bogart LLC's suit to proceed, denying Ashley's summary judgment motion in a lengthy opinion finding that "genuine disputes exist as to the material facts."
Bogart's estate sued Ashley in 2010 over three pieces of its "Bogart Ocean" collection of furniture introduced to the public in 2008. Bogart LLC owns the federally registered trademarks for the phrase "Humphrey Bogart" in relation to clothing and furniture, among other uses, and has licensed the use of the "Bogart" trademark and Humphrey Bogart's publicity rights on more than one hundred occasions to a wide variety of businesses, Judge Clay D. Land's opinion said.
In each of those licensing deals, third-party licensees paid for the use of the estate's intellectual property through a royalty rate or percent of sales accompanied by an advance or guarantee, according to the opinion.
The estate entered into a licensing agreement with furniture retailer Thomasville in 2001 to name and brand a line of furniture, including residential sofas and chairs, ultimately branded the "Bogart Collection," which has yielded royalties for the estate amounting to more than five million dollars between 2003 and the end of 2011, the judge said. The estate has not entered into any other licensing agreement with a furniture company.
Ashley maintains that its Bogart Ocean collection is not intended to refer to Humphrey Bogart, but rather to the town of Bogart, Georgia, the judge said.
Ashley does not have licenses for the use of third-party names or brands associated with its products, and claims that it does not use celebrity endorsements to sell its products. Bogart LLC disputed that assertion, though, pointing to evidence that Ashley has used celebrity endorsements and what appear to be celebrity names to sell its products.
In support of its contention, the estate pointed to the names of Ashley furniture collections including Gable-Mocha, Brando-Cocoa, Newman-Oyster and Presley-Café.
The Bogart Ocean line was not successful and was discontinued in 2009, according to the judge.