Posted by Abe Sauer on June 17, 2010 05:30 PM
A brewing showdown over product placement could set a precedent for the growing marketing practice and raise questions about who controls how brands benefit from onscreen roles.
The studio behind the Twilight saga of films has filed suit to stop the Dakota Collective's BB Dakota brand from selling its Twilight jacket. The twist: turns out it's the retailer's exclusive design, which the filmmakers used without Dakota's knowledge or permission. Now that the brand is trying to capitalize on its garment's cameo in the film, it's being hit with a lawsuit.
As befits being bitten by a vampire franchise, as far as Dakota is concerned it all, well, sucks.
The jacket's product placement in the film has an interesting backstory, as it was never meant to be. In 2009, costume designer Wendy Chuck said of the jacket's appearance, ''I was planning to use the brown hoodie for that sequence, but the director of photography hated the fact that (the Bella Swan character's) hair and the jacket were both brown and felt she got lost in it."
Like all things in Twilight, the jacket became a monster hit. It's billed as "the Bella jacket" on Amazon, where one customer review exclaims, "i'm very excited to have a jacket like Bella's, after watching Twilight i fell in love with her jacket." A similar popularity fate befell the Billabong brand's "Hannah" jacket during the release of the second Twilight film.
Obviously there is a line when it comes to using material from the film, including marked logos or images. It is common for brands, such as Sama Eyewear, to unofficially use entrainment collateral in which their products appear in marketing materials. This is a clear violation of mark protections.
But what about simply noting that the jackets connection to the film in the product description? The page of Dakota Collective's website in question only uses the phrases "Jacket seen in Twilight" and "Bella Swann [sic] wears this jacket in Twilight and scores the hottest vampire in high school, and so can you!" It uses no images or logos from the film.
The big question is whether or not a brand can capitalize on its product placement in a film even if it had no prior product placement agreement. Indeed, Twilight did not seek Dakota's permission to use the product in the film while shooting.
In contrast, Magnum Research, maker of the iconic Desert Eagle handgun, maintains a page that simply lists its film appearances. Should that be allowed? And where to draw the line?