Many of you know that Bravado is the music merchandising company that was hired by the Estate to be its exclusive manufacturer and distributor of Michael Jackson merchandise. Bravado and AEG originally had an agreement to manufacture Jackson's This Is It merchandise, and because of its stellar reputation, the Estate decided to go into an agreement with Bravado to manufacture future MJ merchandise after Michael died.
Apparently, Howard Mann isn't the only person in the world who is willing to defy what the definition of exclusive rights is. Enter Julian Rouas, who has gone into business with Joe Jackson for a line of perfume/colognes. Like Howard Mann, who refused to abide by Michael's final wishes that his Estate retains the rights to his name, likeness and image, Rouas has followed suit. The line of perfume/cologne that Rouas is hawking blatantly uses Michael Jackson's trademarks without consent from the Estate.
I first heard about Julian (Franck) Rouas through @michaonthemoon on Twitter almost a month ago. (Credit her for the title of this blog.) As I began to read about Rouas, I realized very quickly that he has a questionable character and business sense, at best. One only has to Google Julian Rouas to find blogs everywhere which claim that Rouas has a track record of embezzlement, conning people out of their investment money with no return, selling inferior/substandard products....the list goes on and on and on. Perhaps the best and most convincing proof of Rouas' character comes from this blog, which shows court documents claiming bad check writing, identity theft and other assorted crimes. Since the author of the blog did such a thorough background check on Rouas, we will concentrate solely on the Bravado v. Rouas case.
First Cause of Action
Violation of 15 U.S.C. 1125a - defined here. As you can see, the violation of this code means that the illegal use of a trademark word, name or symbol which causes confuses the consumer.
Of course we all know that this is the logo used for the movie/DVD This Is It, the posthumous release of Michael's ill fated tour in London in the form of rehearsal footage. The Estate owns this logo. Now take a look at the perfume bottles below, manufactured by Julian Rouas. On both the Tribute bottle to the far right and the black box in the background, both utilize the This Is It image.
For those fans who continually read up-to-date, we know that Rouas' venture is a scam, and illegal. However, there are many fans who may see these images (such as the TII likeness below) and immediately believe that by buying this perfume, they are supporting Michael and his Estate. Clearly, this is not the case.
Second Cause of Action
Violation of Common Law Unfair Competition - explained here. Two aspects have to be proven here; the first is likelihood of confusion which "exists when there is confusion as to the source, sponsorship or association between goods and services." Beyond the images above that illustrate the likelihood of confusion amongst consumers who assume that Rouas' perfume line has been authorized by the Estate (and Michael's final wishes), please see the image below. This image/advertisement for Rouas has 2 pictures of Michael Jackson, a reference to Neverland and the words "Jackson Legacy". Clearly, this would confuse the consumer.
The above picture also covers the second aspect of unfair competition; false advertising. By using the words "Eau de Parfum de Neverland", "Jackson Legacy" together with pictures of Michael Jackson, the consumer is lead to believe that this perfume is somehow associated with Michael Jackson and/or his Estate.
Third Cause of Action
Trademark Dilution under 15 U.S.C. 1125c - explained here. The Plaintiffs (Estate) in this cause of action have the burden of proving that Rouas tarnished the trademark by harming the reputation through confusion of the public of said trademark. So in this case, the Estate claims:
If there is any doubt that the line of perfume is causing some confusion, check out shavarross.com. Ross was a child star, and here is his comment on his blog regarding the new Rouas/Jackson perfume line:
Not only is the line confusing to the public, but the association of Rouas' suspicious petty criminal allegations are enough to prove that the trademark is being tarnished.
Fourth Cause of Action
Copyright Infringement - The Estate claims that they were granted "the exclusive reproduction, distribution and exhibition rights in merchandise, including, but not limited to, perfume, in and to the following work that has been registered with the United States Register of Copyrights..." The Estate claims that the images and trademarks that Rouas is using to advertise and market his perfume line are owned by the 1985 Michael Jackson Calendar, which the Estate now owns. The image below is a partial screenshot of the ownership of the calendar.
Fifth Cause of Action
Violation of Section 3344.1 California Civil Code - explained here.
"Any person who uses a deceased personality's name, voice, signature, photograph, or likeness, in any manner, on or in products, merchandise, or goods, or for purposes of advertising or selling...shall be liable to the injured party or parties in an amount equal to the greater of seven hundred fifty dollars ($750) or the actual damages suffered by the injured party or parties, as a result of the unauthorized use..." (This is obviously where the monetary damage claim limits are set, as the Estate has requested $750 for each trademark violation, meaning every single bottle of perfume. The Estate is also asking for three times the amount of profit that Rouas has made so far.)
Sixth Cause of Action
Violation of Common Law Right of Publicity - explained here. Essentially, the same as the Fifth Cause of Action above.
Seventh Cause of Action
Unfair Competition Under California Bus/Prof Code Section 17200 et seq - explained here.
"Section 17200 applies to any unlawful or unfair or fraudulent business act or practice and any unfair, deceptive, untrue or misleading advertising." This is essentially the same claim as the Second Cause of Action, however it is a state code, meaning that the unfair competition occurred in California.
So the bottom line here is that Julian Rouas has violated many laws and codes when he decided to manufacture this perfume line, using trademarked images, logos and likenesses that are owned by the Estate. Like Howard Mann, Rouas believes that because there is an affiliation to one of Michael's family members, this gives him carte blanche to do as he pleases and profit from the now deceased Michael Jackson.
But this is NOT what Michael Jackson wanted. Jackson specifically designated his trademarks to be managed by his estate executors in the event of his death. Besides the fact that Julian Rouas is the LAST person (ok, Rouas and Mann are probably in a dead heat tie for this) that Michael Jackson would want to see profit from his trademarks, he would also be equally as suspicious and wary as to what sort of association Rouas had with his children.
One can only hope that shady businessmen like Julian Rouas and Howard Mann are being kept at a FAR distance from Michael's children. One has to ask...is there anyone out there besides the Estate who IS respecting Michael Jackson's final wishes?
Thanks to @loakim45 on Twitter, for directing me to this link. Apparently, there has been a fall-out between Joe Jackson and Julian Rouas. Rouas claims that the Jackson patriarch is angry because the contract between the two of them was leaked to the media. At the launch party on June 9th at Caesar's in Las Vegas, Joe was accompanied by LaToya Jackson, but distanced himself physically from Rouas. Interesting developments, indeed.
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