Hand of God Slaps Wrist of D&G: Maradona Wins Image Rights Case in Italy

January 20, 2020

Diego Maradona has prevailed in his court action against Dolce & Gabbana, following the high-end fashion house’s use of the football legend’s name on t-shirts modelled at a show in Milan last year, which were based on the iconic Napoli kit worn by Maradona in the 1980s.

Despite the fact that the t-shirts were never actually made available for sale, and were instead simply used to add colour and flavour to a themed promotional event showcasing D&G’s couture, the Milan Court of First Instance upheld Maradona’s claim, ruling that the use of his name without prior authorisation was unlawful under the Italian Industrial Property Code.

The court held that “the use of a decorative element, which reproduces a distinctive sign or name of a third-party leads to the establishment of an association with that person.” With particular reference to D&G’s use of Maradona-specific indicia on one of the shirts, the judge stated that since the name was “well known” and “conveys particular impressions of historical allure and football excellenceit cannot be freely used by third-parties without the permission of the rightsholder.” Accordingly the courts awarded damages of €70,000, which was considerably less than the €1,000,000 claimed.

The case appears to show, according to keen-eyed followers of developments in intellectual property law in Italy, that the courts there will take a more flexible and expansive view of the subsistence and enforcement of IP rights in the names and images of celebrities and sportspeople than is the case in many other European jurisdictions.