INDUSTRIES, FASHION | Italian Supreme Court on the descriptive use of names of celebrities

On 8 April 2024, the Italian Supreme Court issued its decision in case 29889/2022 (Dotti and Hepburn v Salvatore Ferragamo S.p.A.) concerning the use of the name of the famous actress Audrey Hepburn for the sale of three pairs of shoes. The Court dismissed the case and confirmed the fairness of the use of Hepburn’s name. In particular, in relation to the ‘Audrey’ ballerinas, the use of Audrey Hepburn was authorised on the basis of an advertising agreement between her heirs’ foundation and the defendants. As regards the use of the actress’s name for the other two types of shoes (‘Sandalo Gondoletta’ and ‘Ballerina Idra’), the Court held that the use of her name in the description of the shoes to indicate that they were designed for and worn by Hepburn was permissible. That use was to be regarded as primarily descriptive and informative, even though it was used in the context of a commercial activity. The Court balanced the need to protect the personal rights of Audrey Hepburn’s heirs and the defendants’ freedom of speech and expression in reaching this conclusion.

Newsletter n. 95 – April 2024