On November 16, 2020, supermodel Anastassia Khozissova filed a $20 million lawsuit in the New York state court against Ralph Lauren Corp. (“Ralph Lauren”) and HBO for their alleged unauthorized use of her likeness. Ms. Khozissova has been featured in campaigns and runway shows for numerous luxury brands, including Ralph Lauren. The model once shared a close working relationship with Ralph Lauren having been featured as the only model in the brand’s book “Diary of a Collection,” which was originally published in 2005. Ms. Khozissova alleges that her relationship with Ralph Lauren has since dissolved.

Ms. Khozissova purports that Ralph Lauren continues to use her photos in the brand’s Moscow store and New York City restaurant Polo Bar. Her image is also shown multiple times in “Very Ralph,” a documentary about Ralph Lauren that airs and is available for streaming on HBO.

Ms. Khozissova alleges that these acts are in violation of New York Civil Rights Law § 50 because Ralph Lauren and HBO failed to obtain her written consent to such uses of her likeness. The statute provides that “A…corporation that uses for advertising purposes, or for the purposes of trade, the name, portrait or picture of any living person without having first obtained the written consent of such person…is guilty of a misdemeanor.” N.Y. Civ. Rights Law § 50. In addition to monetary damages, Ms. Khozissova seeks attorney fees, court costs and injunctive relief.

Takeaway: Brands should ensure that they have sufficient rights to use a models’ likenesses. When preparing agreements, consider whether a right to use a model’s likeness extends beyond a specific campaign and is inclusive of other advertising and marketing messages. If that right is not secured in prior agreements, brands should ensure that they obtain the necessary consents in subsequent agreements.