According to some European newspapers, Argentinian football legend, Diego Maradona, (infamous in England for his ‘hand of god’ goal in the quarter finals of 1986 World Cup in Mexico) is suing Italian fashion house Dolce & Gabbana (D&G) for unduly exploiting his name and likeness for commercial reasons.

Maradona objected to a D&G model who wore a light blue football shirt (just like the one Maradona would’ve worn during his time playing for Napoli) with his name and number (the number ten, which he wore throughout his career) on the back, during a fashion show in Naples in 2016. Maradona made his name while at Napoli, becoming a club legend – to the extent that his number ten shirt was retired after he left the club.

Maradona’s complaint (filed at the Milan Court of First Instance) is that D&G have misappropriated and misused his name.

What are his claims?

Article 6 and 7 of the Italian Civil Code expressly recognise the right to one's own name. Article 7 states that, if your name is misused by a third party, resulting in prejudice, you can request a court order to end such use, as well as seek compensation for any damages. ‘Use’ includes the direct use of someone’s own name for a business, product or fictional character. But it’s not clear whether it includes the use of someone’s own name if there is no intention to use the name to distinguish the business or product.

Maradona also claims that D&G has taken unfair advantage of the reputation of his well-known name, which is protected by trademark law. He has several European Union trademark registrations for his name, including for use on clothing.

Furthermore, he may have an argument under unfair competition rules, if he can prove that D&G’s use of his name creates confusion in their capacity as a competitor and, as such, conflict with the principles of professional fairness, and are likely to damage Maradona’s business activity. Past enforcement of Article 10 may also be of interest to Maradona, as case law shows that the right to protect one’s image can come into consideration, even when the image is evoked – but not used.

Maradona will face several challenges in his claim. The initial view of many seems to be that his case may be dismissed. But, it’ll be interesting to see how it unfolds.

Apologizing on Instagram, Stefan Gabbana stated that D&G did not manufacture the Maradona jersey for sale, as they didn’t ‘want to make use of it to make money’. This will almost certainly decrease any of the monetary damages that Maradona is seeking from the brand.

We’ll be keeping an eye on this one, so watch this space for further updates!

For more information, please contact Nick de Figueiredo

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