Earlier this week we told you about an interesting ultra-realistic Steve Jobs action figure, which Apple is trying to ban from sales under threat of legal action. But according to Paid Content, Apple may be fighting a losing battle.
Paid Content reports that Apple is powerless to prevent sales of the action figure in most U.S. states, as Apple does not have exclusive rights to Steve Jobs’ likeness. And even if they did have exclusive rights, most states would only recognize such claims while Jobs was still alive.
From Paid Content:
Apple’s legal claim is largely bogus. While people can indeed own rights to their likeness, those rights usually apply only to living people. Unlike other forms of intellectual property like patents or copyrights, image rights do not survive beyond the grave in most places.
Under American law, so-called “personality rights” exist only at the state level—there is no federal law. And only about a dozen states recognize image rights after death. Oddly, it is Indiana that has the strongest protection, restricting commercial use of a person’s image for 100 years after their passing.
But in New York and most other places, there is no protection at all. This was confirmed five years when a court in the state found that no one had the exclusive right to market Marilyn Monroe. Efforts to change the law have so far failed.
What this means is that Apple’s warning about the doll is an empty threat in most places. It may not even be able to stop others from using the name Steve Jobs as, surprisingly, the term does not appear on the company’s long list of registered trademarks. A company spokesperson did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
Even now, sales of the $99 doll are up to $140 bucks and beyond on eBay due to the controversy and the threat of legal action. And even if In Icon, the makers of the doll, are legally in the clear, they still may back down to pressure from Apple.