Herman Miller, Inc. v. Palazzetti Imports & Exports, Inc.

270 F.3d 298 (2001)

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Herman Miller, Inc. v. Palazzetti Imports & Exports, Inc.

United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
270 F.3d 298 (2001)

  • Written by Liz Nakamura, JD

Facts

Charles Eames designed enormously successful furniture for Herman Miller, Inc. (plaintiff). A particularly famous lounge and ottoman Eames designed for Herman Miller sold over 100,000 units and was still in demand. After Eames’s death, Herman Miller signed an agreement with Eames’s estate for an exclusive right of publicity to Eames’s name and likeness. Herman Miller was based in Michigan but sold furniture nationwide. Palazzetti Imports and Exports, Inc. (Palazzetti) (defendant) manufactured and sold exact copies of the lounge chair and ottoman Eames had designed for Herman Miller. Palazzetti’s primary place of business was New York. Herman Miller sued Palazzetti in the United States District Court for the Western District of Michigan, alleging, in relevant part, that Palazzetti violated Herman Miller’s right of publicity by using the Eames name to sell unauthorized copies of Herman Miller’s Eames-designed lounge and ottoman. Palazzetti moved for summary judgment, arguing that neither Michigan nor New York recognized a post-mortem right of publicity. The district court denied Palazzetti’s motion, holding that Michigan common law did recognize a post-mortem right of publicity. After a jury trial, the district court held Palazzetti liable for violating Herman Miller’s right of publicity in Eames’s name and likeness and issued a permanent, nationwide injunction against Palazzetti. Palazzetti appealed, arguing the district court could not apply Michigan’s post-mortem right of publicity to states, like New York, that explicitly refused to recognize a post-mortem right of publicity.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Boggs, J.)

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