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News & Events

Will Chair Girl take a seat in image use dispute?

Dec 21, 2020

By: Sepideh Nassabi – Registered Trademark Agent and Litigation Lawyer 

Image: Sepideh K. Nassabi, Litigator and Registered Trademark AgentThe Year: 2019.

The Name: Marcella Zoia. 

The Incident: Marcella tossed a chair off the 45th floor of a high-rise building in downtown Toronto onto the Gardiner Expressway. 

The Result: The nickname “Chair Girl” and notoriety. 

For those of you who don’t remember life before the pandemic, in February 2019, a video of Marcella throwing a chair off of a high-rise balcony in downtown Toronto was uploaded onto social media. It went viral and caught the attention of the police, who subsequently identified and charged her. Marcella acquired the nickname “Chair Girl”. Chair Girl pleaded guilty to mischief endangering life. She was sentenced to two years’ probation, 150 hours of community service, and fined $2000. 

The stunt won her notoriety. 

She made a brief appearance as an extra in a music video by none other than Drake. Unfortunately, she ended up being cut out of the video following an outcry on social media. Drake responded to the outcry by saying that he has nothing to do with who appears as extras in his videos. 

She has almost 110,000 followers on Instagram, and Instagram recently gave her the coveted verification badge – the check mark – which is an authentication mark that Instagram gives to notable celebrities, professional athletes, influencers, and media personalities. To get the verified badge, the account holder must meet certain Instagram requirements, including being highly searched by other users.

Now considered a recognizable individual, Chair Girl has acquired personality rights that give her exclusivity to exploit her personality for commercial purposes. 

Cabibble Cards, a company that creates and sells commemorative trading cards, released a set of trading cards encapsulating Chair Girl. The CEO of the company, Tim Matheson, states that he received a cease and desist letter from Chair Girl’s team which states that Chair Girl did not give him permission to use her likeness on the trading cards and that if he doesn’t pull the cards from the market, Chair Girl will take legal action. 

Some of you might remember a few years ago when William Shatner’s likeness was used as part of the promotion materials for a condominium development in Hamilton. The condominium floor plans had suites named after celebrities and included caricatures of the stars it was channeling. William Shatner’s name and likeness were used to advertise a two-bedroom suite priced at over a million dollars. Shatner expressed his displeasure over the unauthorized use of his likeness via Twitter and the condominium developer quickly removed the materials. 

The CEO of the trading card company admits that he did not get Chair Girl’s permission and apparently has no intention of pulling the cards, despite the threat of legal action. It will be interesting to see how this matter unfolds. If he refuses to pull the cards, Chair Girl could sue for misappropriation of personality. If successful in the lawsuit, she could walk away with money that you can bet she won’t throw off of any balcony.

If you have questions regarding your trademark, intellectual property, or any material mentioned in this post, contact Registered Trademark Agent and Litigation Lawyer Sepideh Nassabi at snassabi@mindengross.com.