N'Genuity, a large food supplier of food products to the U.S. military, recently sued Chick-fil-A for trademark infringement and unfair competition. N'Genuity had a relationship with Bo Jackson, whereby Jackson received a non-controlling interest in N'Genuity stock and a seat on N'Genuity's board of directors in exchange for the exclusive use of his name and likeness to promote food products. N'Genuity invested in the promotion of food products under the name "Bo Jackson Signature Foods," and holds federal trademark registrations for BO JACKSON SIGNATURE FOODS and BO BURGER. Subsequently, Chick-fil-A ran an ad with Bo Jackson's photo, stating that when Jackson was not "hitting linebackers or baseballs," he would "run over and eat chicken." The ad also states that he "never took up burgers." According to the complaint, Jackson's appearance in that advertisement was not at any time authorized, endorsed, or ratified by N'Genuity. N'Genuity is seeking to enjoin Chick-fil-A from using the "Bo Jackson" trademarks and damages.
TIP: Advertisers should use due diligence to confirm that celebrity-endorsers have all necessary rights to permit the advertiser to use the celebrity's name and likeness, and that the celebrity's appearance in the ad does not violate separate agreements with third parties.