Commentary

Duane Reade Lands In Court Due To Tweet

Last month, drugstore chain Duane Reade boasted on Twitter that actress Katherine Heigl shopped at the store.

The company posted a photo of Heigl walking on a street while carrying large shopping bags with the store's logo on them, along with this now-deleted tweet: “Love a quick #DuaneReade run? Even @KatieHeigl can't resist shopping #NYC's favorite drugstore.”

That tweet prompted the “Knocked Up” star to sue the drugstore for turning her into an unpaid endorser. “Plaintiff's picture, image and likeness enjoy wide-spread recognition and monetary value,” she alleges in a complaint filed on Wednesday in federal court in New York. “Accordingly, when Plaintiff chooses to endorse a product or service, she is highly selective and well compensated.”

The image appeared to have come from the gossip site JustJared.com, which ran an item about Heigl changing agencies. Duane Reade “misappropriated and purloined the photograph for use completely unrelated to its original news context, by stripping the photo of its original editorial context,” she alleges.

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Heigl goes on to argue that Duane Reade's use of the photo “falsely implies that [she] sponsors, endorses, or is affiliated with Defendant's goods and services and is likely to cause consumer confusion.”

Heigl might well have a point. It's long been the case in New York that companies can't simply use names or photos of people in ads without their permission, and Duane Reade obviously hoped that a photo of Heigl with the store's bags would give it a boost with consumers.

But Duane Reade also can argue that it has a free speech right to post accurate information about its business. Some observers are already on record as saying this tweet might be protected speech. For instance, attorney Marc Reiner with Moss & Kalish reportedly compared Duane Reade's tweet with a store's statement about celebrity clients to the press. “You often see companies, usually smaller ones, touting the appearance of their products in connection with celebrities,” Reiner told The Wall Street Journal. He adds that consumers probably wouldn't think that the tweet was the product of an official endorsement arrangement.

3 comments about "Duane Reade Lands In Court Due To Tweet".
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  1. Walter Graff from Bluesky Media, April 10, 2014 at 8:11 p.m.

    If she thinks her photo carrying a couple of bags is going to make me or anyone shop at Duane Reade shes nuts. Get over yourself, your not that big, nor that good.

  2. Chuck Lantz from 2007ac.com, 2017ac.com network, April 10, 2014 at 8:12 p.m.

    Talk about a slam-dunk. Duane Reade proved in their own Tweet that Heigl's name had value simply by using it in the Tweet. Unless the company wants even more publicity by fighting it in court, it's best to just write her a check and move on.

  3. Jonathan Hutter from Northern Light Health, April 10, 2014 at 8:41 p.m.

    Whether consumers think the endorsement is official is immaterial. The intent of Duane Reade was to gain commercial advantage. Slam dunk is correct. And stupid business by DR.

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