Estate of James Dean Files Suit Over “@JamesDean” Twitter Account

In the past, the term “cybersquatting” may have only referred to the use of trademarks in internet domain names without permission, but may expand beyond web address names to include social media accounts.

The estate of long-deceased actor and icon James Dean has filed suit against the social networking site Twitter and one or more of its users, alleging infringement of trademark and likeness rights. A fan of the actor created the Twitter account “@JamesDean” back in 2009, with a goal of sharing their love of the Hollywood icon with the Twitter community. In question is whether using both the name and image of the long-deceased actor who starred in the movies “Rebel Without a Cause,” “Giant” and “East of Eden” violates trademark and likeness rights as well as Twitter’s “impersonation policy.”

The site’s “impersonation policy” states that “Twitter accounts portraying another person in a confusing or deceptive manner may be permanently suspended under the Twitter Impersonation Policy.”

The Federal Anti-Cybersquatting Piracy Act covers the unauthorized use of celebrity names when it comes to Web domains but not Twitter user names. In its complaint, James Dean, Inc. claims that it requested that Twitter remove the “@JamesDean” account numerous times before filing suit. The lawsuit, James Dean, Inc., et al v. Twitter, Inc., et al, alleges that Twitter allowed a user to create an account with the handle, or user’s account name, “@JamesDean” during or prior to September 2012 without permission.

It alleges trademark infringement under §§ 32(1) and 43(A) of the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. §§ 1114(1), 1125(a); and false endorsement under § 43(A). In addition, the suit claims violations of the right of publicity under both Indiana and common law, unfair competition, and unjust enrichment. As per the lawsuit, James Dean Inc. wants Twitter to “give” the @JamesDean account back to the estate.

If you are a member of the Miami entertainment community and think you may have a trademark infringement case, contact the law office of Manos & Associates, P.L. online or call 305-341-3100 to contact an attorney and musician who knows the entertainment world. Your first consultation with an intake specialist can determine if we can help you, and it’s free of charge.