LOS ANGELES (LALATE) – A Casey Anthony trademark turmoil could erupt over use of not just Caylee Anthony’s name and likeness but also Casey Anthony’s own name. In Casey Anthony’s last three years of drama, there were sporadic news stories about trademarks and licensing rights. Those stories drew raised eyebrows from critics at the time. Now, with Casey Anthony set to be freed, and Caylee Anthony’s image expected to be used commercially by everyone from Hollywood studios to television networks, all these questions are coming back into the forefront.
Because of her tragic death, Caylee Anthony has arguably become the most recognized child of a generation. With such recognition will come commercial exploitation of her image. Movies of the week, books, puzzles, diapers and an entire world of merchandise could soon create Caylee Inc. In today’s world of merchandise sensation, Caylee’s image and name could make its owner not a millionaire but a billionaire.
And then there is Casey Anthony. Despite how much America may dislike her, her name, her image, and her lies have made her the most talked about person in the United States this month. It’s not going to change anytime soon. An exclusive from her could bring a TV news network millions in advertising revenues, in just one evening.
So who owns the rights to Casey Anthony? Who owns the rights to Caylee Anthony? The answers are easier than you think. That is, unless, you recall what happened in a Florida court room in March 2009 and then across Florida news in May 2011. Different lawyers, from different sides, prompted criticism for their moves regarding commercial rights to Anthony family members. Those lawyers were Mark Lippman and Jose Baez.
First, who owns the rights to Caylee Anthony? On May 17 this year, Mark Lippman filed a trademark application listing his law firm as the applicant in the attempt to own Caylee Anthony’s name in one class of goods. The application sought protection under a 1B status, aka an “Intent to Use”. The application hence represented that the Lippman or his client intends to use the name “Caylee Anthony” on t-shirts.
But that wasn’t the only commercial exploitation of Caylee Anthony’s name that Lippman sought. He also sought an application for t-shirts, buttons, even underwear for “Justice for Caylee.” Yes, Lippman intends to put Caylee Anthony’s “Justice for Caylee” on “underwear”.
But does Lippman have the right to file an intent to use the Caylee Anthony? The right to use Caylee’s name for commercial publication for Florida law is codified in 540.08. The statute holds that no person shall use the name or likeness of a deceased person unless they get written authorization from the duly authorized person or “from among a class composed of her or his surviving spouse and surviving children.” By virtue of probate, it would appear that the next of kin, Casey Anthony, the child’s parent, would be the recipient of that right upon her death, not the child’s grandparents.
Casey Anthony has previously profited on the likeness of Caylee. In 2008, she and Jose Baez sold exclusive video to ABC News of Caylee for $200,000.
So if Casey could own the rights to Caylee Anthony, who owns the rights to Casey Anthony? Excluding any dealing, Casey of course would. But is there such a deal?
The world this week has talked about the millions Casey Anthony will make. But did she sign away certain rights to Jose Baez years ago? That was the issue that prosecutors wanted to know in March 2009. Prosecutors at the time were concerned that “any financial misdealings could be a conflict of interest and give Casey grounds for an appeal.”
Baez denied the suggestions to WFTV at the time. The Orlando Sentinel reported at the time “Prosecutors want[ed] Anthony to acknowledge that she has no problem with what Baez might have done, Belich explained. Baez told Kealing that the state’s action was a witch hunt and that he has done nothing wrong. In the state’s motion, prosecutors described Anthony’s “conversion from pauper to princess.” “
Baez today has already signed with a top Hollywood agent. Casey Anthony has not. It is possible that Casey Anthony assigned the film, movie, and print rights about her trial, only, to Jose Baez. It’s unlikely that any other rights might have been assigned. But how did Casey afford her trial?
WESH reported at the time “The state is asking the judge to require Jose Baez to reveal any and all deals he made on Casey’s behalf to fund a team that now includes eight lawyers and other experts”.
Despite all that, surprisingly, no one has registered a trademark for “Casey Anthony” or “Jose Baez”. But everything could soon change.