March 29, 2019
by Ashley Cullins
The late actor's heir says the fashion brand is trying to capitalize on McQueen's iconic status to sell sweaters.
Steve McQueen made cardigans cool and Tom Ford is trying to capitalize on the late actor's fame, according to a lawsuit filed Friday by the late actor's son.
Chadwick McQueen controls his father's rights of publicity and trademark rights, along with City National Bank, and claims Tom Ford's line of "McQueen" sweaters are infringing them.
At the height of his career, which included starring roles in 1968 films The Thomas Crown Affair and Bullitt, McQueen was among the highest paid actors in the world. He died in 1980 but, according to the complaint, commercial use of his likeness is still in demand. In addition to being known as a box office boosting bad boy, his son claims, McQueen was also known for his style.
"Certain sartorial items in fact became synonymous with McQueen," writes attorney Keith Wesley in the complaint. "One such garment was a wool cardigan sweater with a shawl collar. ... McQueen made that sweater cool — so much so that James Bond wore one forty years later."
Tom Ford is selling a "McQueen Cardigan" for $2390 and a "Merino McQueen Cardigan" for $1690 through its website (pictured below), according to the complaint. Meanwhile, Neiman Marcus is selling Ford's line and actually uses the actor's full name in the item monikers. Bergdorf Goodman describes them as "inspired by the iconic Steve McQueen."
McQueen's son claims the companies are trading upon the actor's reputation and giving the false perception that the sweaters have been authorized by the family. He's suing for trademark infringement, false endorsement and unfair competition, among other claims.
He's seeking disgorgement of all profits plus at least $2 million in statutory damages for each registered trademark and punitive damages — plus an injunction barring the companies from using his trademark, name, persona or likeness or implying an association with the family and an order that all marketing and promotional materials bearing his name or likeness be destroyed. Steve McQueen