Casa de Papel and Intellectual Property Rights: Masks off!

Casa de Papel and Intellectual Property Rights: Masks off!

It’s hard to have missed out this summer’s binge-watch hit: yes, of course, we’re thinking of Casa de Papel and its much-anticipated Season 3! Breaking the viewership records for the online streaming platform Netflix, fans have once again tuned in to find out the next perilous adventure of the Professor’s team…

The Mask of Salvador Dali: A Symbol or a Subject of Debate?

If the TV series Casa de Papel is attracting a lot of attention, it’s not only due to the excitement it generates among its large community of fans, which makes it the most watched Netflix series in many countries, but also due to the controversy it has generated around the use of its famous Salvador Dali mask. According to the Gaya-Salvador Dali Foundation, this mask, used to hide the identity of the robbers, is said to be based on the most well-known and emblematic signs of expression of the painter’s face.

In this turmoil, the Foundation points the finger at the production of the TV series for not having asked for authorization to use it. An accusation contested by the production, which claims not only to have contributed to the notoriety of the artist, but also to have used facial expressions that could belong to anyone. If the controversy started during the first two seasons, the third season has not slowed down these accusations. To be continued for season 4, which is scheduled for release in 2020…

Intellectual Property Law: A Story that Lasts

The accusations against Casa de Papel production are nothing new. In another sector, it was Amazon that was reported by the Louboutin brand. The famous shoemaker accused the website of advertising its famous red soled shoes online without its consent… Louboutin has already won the first round of the trial.

Indeed, no one can freely use an intellectual property right that does not belong to them. To avoid finding yourself in the position of an infringer, one must first obtain authorization, either through a license or a transfer of ownership. Most importantly, it is necessary to carry out thorough checks to detect rights that have already been established.

Take for example a film title such as Star Wars. This title can be protected as a trademark and by copyright, as well as the main characters and key elements of productions such as Darth Vader, Yoda or even James Bond, 007, Harry Potter, The Simpsons…

Mickey Mouse, the world’s most recognizable comic book character, was registered as a trademark in 1928!

In a decision dated on April 5, 2019, the Paris Court of Appeal condemned the publisher of a restaurant reservation website for having used without authorization the trademark “Michelin” and the figurative mark representing the character of the Michelin Man, qualifying these facts as counterfeit.

In a decision dated on May 6, 2014, the Commercial Chamber of the Court of Cassation (French Supreme Court) upheld H&M’s conviction for counterfeiting on the grounds that the shoes worn by the model were clearly visible, especially since the model dressed in a short dress was photographed from the front and presented alone on a white background; the shoes were therefore intended to highlight the dress.

Finally, almost thirty years ago, Christian Lacroix had already obtained the termination of an advertising campaign of a make-up line representing the dresses and the jewelry he had created without his authorization. At the time, the urgent applications judge considered that “it was appropriate to put an end to a manifestly illicit act and to prohibit, consequently, the continuation of an advertising campaign organized in disregard of Christian Lacroix’s rights.”

All Documents Used Commercially Should be Verified

As you have seen, history constantly reminds us that when it comes to intellectual property rights, not a single detail should be overlooked… Before any public distribution of content via Internet or video, let’s rather rely on prior legal verification.

Do not hesitate to contact us, if you wish to secure your project:

Anne DESMOUSSEAUX, Founding Partner, Registered European Trademark & Design Representative