Ashley Furniture, Marlon Brando estate resolve name dispute

Gary Evans, February 7, 2012

LOS ANGELES — Ashley Furniture and the estate of Marlon Brando have resolved a dispute over the use of the Brando name on a collection of Ashley's upholstery.

Both sides claimed victory in the federal lawsuit filed in federal court here in June.

Larry Dressler of Brando Enterprises, which owns all intellectual property rights of the film legend, said the award of $356,000 against Ashley "sends a clear message that infringers of Marlon Brando's name and image will be pursued to the fullest extent, and forced to pay substantial damages."

A statement from Ashley said the suit was resolved "for an amount considerably less than the cost of defense had the case proceeded and a mere fraction of the amount demanded."

Ashley said its collection was not named after Marlon Brando and the name Brando was used as a style identifier, as in "Brando-Cocoa" and Brando-Café" and was one of many identifiers the company uses.

Ashley said it also did not use the actor's photograph or likeness, or reference the actor in any way.

Nonetheless, the Ashley statement said Brando Enterprises sought several million dollars based on the collection's U.S. sales, as well as attorney's fees.

The Ashley statement said: "Early in the litigation and before the parties started incurring substantial attorneys fees, Ashley made an offer of judgment, which would have limited the ability of Brando Enterprises to collect its attorneys' fee if the amount awarded at trial was less than Ashley's offer. This halted the lawsuit, as Brando Enterprises accepted Ashley's offer of judgment, thereby settling the matter for an amount well under Ashley's anticipated defense costs and at a mere fraction of the amount originally demanded."

Brando's law group had earlier sued Palliser for using the name on an entertainment chair and Harley Davidson for unauthorized use of the actor's name.

"We are pleased with the outcome of the (Ashley) settlement and will continue to focus on both protecting the Marlon Brando brand while proactively engaging with companies seeking to license his iconic name," said Jeffrey Abrams, an entertainment attorney for Brando Enterprises.