Rihanna is suing her father for allegedly using their family surname to “solicit millions of dollars from unsuspecting third parties.” According to the complaint that Rihanna filed against her dad Ronald Fenty and his business partner, Moses Joktan Perkins, in a California federal court on Tuesday, the two men are on the hook for “fraudulently misrepresent[ing] to third parties and the public that their company, Fenty Entertainment, LLC, is affiliated with Rihanna, and has the authority to act on her behalf.”
While Fenty Entertainment may sound legitimate, that could not be further from the truth, the multi-hyphenate Grammy winner (and budding beauty mogul) claims in the suit. In reality, 30-year old Rihanna – born Robyn Rihanna Fenty – claims that she is not in any way affiliated with the barely 2-year old Fenty Entertainment venture, thereby giving rise to federal trademark infringement, false designation of origin, and false advertising, among other federal and California state law claims.
Rihanna says she was forced to file suit after she learned that her father and Perkins’ started using of her federally protected “Fenty” trademark in connection with their talent and production company, and would not cooperate after the singer’s lawyers sent cease and desist letters to them.
In addition to running afoul of trademark law, Mr. Fenty and Perkins have also allegedly taken to engaging in fraudulent business deals on the singer’s behalf. For instance, the music mega-star claims that the defendants asserted that “they were authorized to act on Rihanna's behalf, and/or that Rihanna would perform at various locations around the world” in exchange for tens of millions of dollars.
“Defendants engaged in the foregoing improper conduct, intentionally misappropriating Rihanna’s name and misrepresenting an affiliation with her. Such conduct constitutes an intentional misrepresentation, deceit or concealment with the intention on the part of depriving Rihanna of her legal rights,” the complaint claims .
With the foregoing in mind, Rihanna – who is suing in her personal capacity, along with two of her affiliated companies, Roraj Trade LLC and Combermere Entertainment Properties – is seeking injunctive relief to keep the defendants from piggybacking on her name for their benefit. She has also demanded monetary damages to the tune of approximately $75 million.
As for whether Rihanna’s dad has an argument that since he shares the same last name as the singer, he has the right to use it, it is unlikely. Rihanna may not legally prohibit her father from using his last name in a personal capacity. However, she is the holder of a long list of trademark rights, such as federal registrations that include the word “Fenty” – i.e., Fenty Beauty, Fenty Glow, and Fenty 88, as well as state law rights for the word Fenty, alone, which is the subject of an array of pending trademark applications for registration. As a result, she has the right to prevent him from using the “Fenty” trademark for commercial purposes.
After all, as we have seen in no small number of cases – including one that Chanel filed against an individual named Chanel Jones, in which Chanel argued that Jones’ spa, called Chanel’s Salon, amounted to trademark infringement and that there is “no absolute right to exploit one’s given name commercially if such use is inconsistent with Chanel’s rights.”
The court ultimately sided with Chanel holding that while Jones must change the name of her salon to exclude the name of the Paris-based brand, “nothing herein may be read to prohibit Jones from using her personal name solely in a personal, non-commercial capacity, or to otherwise identify herself, provided that Ms. Jones does not use her name in any manner that suggests an affiliation or relationship with Chanel."
Long story short: the well-settled fact when it comes to names is that an individual does not have an unfettered right to use his/her personal name for commercial purposes.
*The case is Fenty et al v. Fenty Entertainment, LLC et al, 2:19-cv-00307 (C.D.Cal).