Could Kate Middleton and Prince William Sue Over Royal Wedding Condoms?

April, 2011
E! Online Raines Feldman

How can all these companies be allowed to put Kate and Prince William's faces on questionable items such as sick bags and condoms? Surely they didn't agree to that. Could they sue these companies for using their likeness without permission?-Chanda in Bristol, England

Indeed, the royals likely are not amused by much of the unofficial gimcrackery knocking about ahead of the prince's wedding: condoms and sick bags, indeed, but also Viagra-laced beer, and rather unappetizing looking pizza, among other items.

Will the royal add to their coffers with a few wellplaced lawsuits? Well:

They could. In fact, attorneys tell me, maybe they even should.

"There is something called the right of publicity," says Randal Ivor-Smith, partner and international lawyer at Raines Feldman in Beverly Hills. "The use of Kate and William's images on these products implies their endorsement." And if there is no such endorsement, or licensing deal, or royal nod? Not kosher. Lawsuits could, reasonably, fly.

For the record, we're not talking about cartoons, caricatures or other creations that fall under the category of commentary or satire. That kind of speech is protected. But condoms with Willy's face on the box? Not likely. (I reached out to the condom and beer people. If they know they might be violating anyone's publicity rights, they're keeping quiet about it.)

So what recourse might the royals have in this situation?

"Primarily, they could seek an injunction to prevent these companies from doing this anymore," Ivor-Smith tells me. "They could go after monetary damages for wrongful financial benefit, too."

Rights of publicity suits are nothing new among celebrities, particularly ones who loathe endorsement deals. Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro both sued watchmaker Tutino after the company used their images in ads. (That case was settled.) And No Doubt recently won the right to press a suit against Activision over the band's portrayal in the Rock Band video game.

But still, don't look for a battle royal in the British courts-not over this.

"It just brings negative publicity to the royal family," Ivor-Smith points out. "I am British, and I don't see the royal family ever agreeing" to a monetary settlement or licensing deal, either.

"Why would they? They've got money and an image to uphold."

And a wedding to plan. Let's not forget that.

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