Is this Olsen Twins-inspired T-shirt Illegal?
From copyright laws to trademark regulations, it's important to do your homework when it comes to designing promotional products. However, most distributors probably haven't considered potentially violating rights of publicity. That exact problem has landed retailer Nasty Gal in hot water, according to The Fashion Law.
Nasty Gal sells a shirt that reads, "You're the Ashley to my Mary-Kate." And while this isn't a copy of any existing Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen design or a violation of any federal trademark registrations, the T-shirt might be violating Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen's rights of publicity, which grants an individual the authority to control any commercial use of his or her name and likeness.
The specific terms of the publicity law are unique to each state, which makes the regulations even more complicated. Nasty Gal and Hips & Hair (the brand that produces the T-shirt) are headquartered in California, a state that requires proof that the twins gave their permission to use their names. Of course, this would be very difficult for Nasty Gal to prove in court.
Simply put, Nasty Gal is vulnerable to a lawsuit if the Olsens care enough to do anything about it. Therefore, it's in your best interest to keep the rights of publicity in mind for your next promotion.