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Dead Celebrities (Or Their Heirs) Should Thank Trademark Law

Forbes has come out with its 2008 list of Top-Earning Dead Celebrities. Jimi Hendrix isn’t on the list, though the issue made me think that dead celebrities (and especially their heirs) owe a lot to trademark law. Without statutory rights of publicity and licensing doctrines, a celebrity’s ability to turn their charisma into cash would pretty much die with them.

Not so these days, with #1 Elvis Presley earning $52 million. This compares pretty well with the living celebs’ paydays — last year, top earners Justin Timberlake and Madonna banked “only” $44 million and $40 million, respectively, well short of The King.

Others making the list: Charles Schultz, Heath Ledger, Albert Einstein, Aaron Spelling, Theodor “Dr. Seuss” Geisel, John Lennon, Andy Warhol, Marilyn Monroe, and Steve McQueen.

I’m all for being able to exploit the goodwill that one has built up. Why should that die when the celebrity does?

Posted on November 17, 2008 by Registered CommenterMichael Atkins in | CommentsPost a Comment

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