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Katy Perry sued over Katy Perry clothes and Katy Perry photo

By | Published on Thursday 31 October 2019

Katy Perry Collection

Katy Perry has been sued by Katie Perry. Meanwhile, in a separate case on another continent, Katy Perry has been sued for sharing photos of Katy Perry. All in all, it’s been a fun day in the Katy Perry division of the pop courts, with a trademark case in Australia and yet another paparazzo copyright case in the US.

In the former dispute, Katy Perry the American pop star is being sued by Australian fashion designer Katie Perry. Fashion designer Perry says that pop star Perry is infringing her Australian trademark by selling fashion products in Australia that are branded ‘Katy Perry’. That being really rather similar to the Katie Perry fashion brand, a trademark owned by Katie Perry.

Actually, the two Perrys sparred once before on this trademark issue.

The fashion designer started selling products under her Katie Perry brand in 2006, two years before pop star Perry’s breakout success with her second album ‘One Of The Boys’ (her first LP having been released years earlier under her real name Katy Hudson).

However, fashion designer Perry didn’t get around to registering her trademark in Australia until 2009, by which time ‘I Kissed A Girl’ – the lead single from ‘One Of The Boys’ – had topped charts all over the world, including in Australia.

Lawyers working for pop star Perry formally opposed that trademark registration, prompting fashion designer Perry to make a plea to her namesake on YouTube. In a video message, the latter said to the former “I’m absolutely no threat to you … at the moment the only people who are making any money from this are the lawyers”.

“She withdrew the opposition two hours before the court case”, the fashion designer now says, adding “I have the trademark in Australia”. But that hasn’t stopped the pop star selling Katy Perry branded clothing in Australia, her legal team possibly hoping that the ‘Y’ and the ‘IE’ distinction is sufficient to avoid claims of trademark infringement.

But fashion designer Perry is now calling on the courts to act, having finally been able to access legal support. She is, perhaps unsurprisingly, positioning her case as a David v Goliath battle.

The fashion designer is quoted by Sydney’s Daily Telegraph as saying: “People have sent me photographs of her stuff and I have never had the legal or financial firepower to do anything about it. They clearly think I am just a young fashion designer and won’t be able to do anything”. Admitting that to date she has been “powerless to act”, she says that she has only been able to go legal now having won support from a litigation funder.

“I am a small business owner and my brand is important”, she adds. “This is a real David and Goliath fight. The singer has ignored my trademark and continued to sell infringing goods unlawfully in Australia. I am fighting not just for myself, but for all small businesses in this country who can be bullied by these overseas entities who have much more financial power than we do”.

Making sure that pop star Perry’s legal team – already busy appealing that big ‘Dark Horse’ song-theft judgement – are kept even busier, on top of the trademark claim in Australia we have this new copyright claim in the US related to a paparazzo shot.

Because yes, Perry is the latest celebrity to be sued for posting a paparazzo snap to Instagram. In this case, a photo of Perry dressed up as Hillary Clinton at a Halloween party back in 2016. The agency who owns the photo says it has been chasing the pop star about her getting a licence to use said image pretty much ever since.

There have been a flurry of cases of this kind recently, with Justin Bieber speedily settling a similar action earlier this month. Although celebrities may be able to control the use of paparazzo photos in which they appear via privacy law or so called publicity rights, the copyright in the photo belongs to the photographer or any agency or publication they work for.

If the celebrity posts a photo in which they appear onto one of their digital channels, technically they need permission from the photographer or agency. Some argue that simply sharing a photo on Twitter or Instagram might be covered by the US copyright principle of fair use, but that theory hasn’t been properly tested.

In the new lawsuit over the Perry photo, the plaintiff – an agency called BackGrid – is keen to stress that for people like Perry, Instagram is an important commercial channel, and that the use of other people’s photos on there is therefore definitely not fair.

This week’s legal filing states: “Perry uses her Instagram feed for the purpose of promotion – specifically, to promote her business interests, products, and ventures; to promote and sell the products and services of others; to maintain and increase her visibility and desirability as an endorser, actress, model, and entertainment personality; and to promote her persona and celebrity status. In short, every one of Perry’s Instagram posts is fundamentally promoting something to her 80 million followers”.

It remains to be seen how Team Perry respond to the trademark action in Australia and the copyright claim closer to home.