Warner Bros. has been ordered to pay $ 1.6 million to the family of James Dean and their agent, Curtis Management Group, related to a suit the studio had lost (Daily Variety, July 17, 1992) over the merchandising rights to the name and likeness of the late actor.
The award was handed down yesterday to cover partial legal costs in the lengthy suit.
There are still more costs to be accounted for, which attorneys for the Dean family will file for in the next month.
The studio had filed a $ 90 million suit in 1991, claiming that it was the rightful owner of Dean’s likeness and image because of a clause in a contract that the actor had signed in 1954 prior to the filming of “East of Eden.”
The clause, located in a standard contract, allowed the studio to use Dean’s likeness and image in perpetuity for commercial tie-ins to the film.
While the studio claimed that the clause also carried over to the use of merchandising unrelated to the film, a U.S. District Court judge had ruled that it only related to the selling and advertising of the three films he starred in before his death.
The other two films were “Giant” and “Rebel Without a Cause.”
The Dean image is estimated to have generated some $ 30 million since 1984.
At the time Warners filed suit, Curtis Management did not file a counterclaim. Yesterday, the company’s president, Mark Roesler, declined to comment on whether there were plans to pursue a future suit for damages.