6 October 2017

Audrey Hepburn’s son hits back in image brawl with charity

The son of late British actress Audrey Hepburn has hit back in an image brawl with a charity set up in his mother’s name.

Audrey Hepburn Children’s Fund, which raises money for children’s charities through exhibits of Hepburn memorabilia, sued Sean Ferrer in February this year, accusing him of interfering with the charity’s work for his own benefit.

At issue was the right of the fund to continue using Hepburn’s name, likeness and image in connection with exhibitions which centre on a collection of gowns designed by Hubert de Givenchy and worn by Hepburn.

The charity claimed that in 2013 and 2016, Ferrer delayed or stopped exhibitions in Australia and South Korea, and in January this year Ferrer “threatened” (through his lawyer) to sue a Chinese exhibitor in order to block multiple shows of Hepburn’s memorabilia in 2017 and 2018.

Audrey Hepburn Children’s Fund was established by Hepburn’s two sons, Ferrer and Luca Dotti, and Robert Wolders, Hepburn’s partner of 13 years.

According to the claim, Ferrer began to “actively interfere” with the fund in 2008 and, after convincing Dotti to become fund chairman, Ferrer stepped down from the board and resigned as chairman.

Yesterday, October 5, Ferrer sued the charity at the US District Court for the Central District of California.

In the suit, Ferrer claimed that he stepped down as chairman in 2012 because of disagreements over spending but allowed the charity to use the IP rights on a limited and project-by-project basis.

Ferrer added that he hasn’t approved any use by the charity of the IP rights since 2015, and that any subsequent used has falsely created “the impression of an endorsement of its activity by Audrey Hepburn”.

“On information and belief, Audrey Hepburn Children’s Fund contends that it is now using the Hepburn-inherited IP rights and Hepburn trademarks pursuant to a perpetual, global, limitless licence,” said the claim.

Ferrer has asked the court to stop the fund from using Hepburn’s name, likeness and any of the Hepburn trademarks.

Steven Young, partner at Freeman, Freeman & Smiley and representative of the fund, said: “Ferrer’s conduct is hampering the fund in its efforts to continue to raise money for children’s charities. The fund's position is that Ferrer's claims are entirely bogus.”

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More on this story

15 February 2017   The son of late British actress Audrey Hepburn has become entangled in a lawsuit with the Audrey Hepburn Children’s Fund, a charity set up in her name.
9 October 2017   WIPR rounds up the most-read IP litigation cases that we reported on in the week beginning October 2, with Hard Rock Café and a sperm bank both featuring.