Family of Tattoo Artist Sues Sailor Jerry Rum for Unauthorized Use

The family of now-deceased Hawaii tattoo artist “Sailor Jerry” is bringing an unauthorized use lawsuit against William Grant & Sons, the makers of Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum. Alleging that the massive Scotland-based company never received legal permission to use Sailor Jerry’s image or story for promotional purposes, the family filed a claim with the State Court in Hawaii earlier this month.

At Davis Levin Livingston, our firm partner Mark Davis is proud to represent the family in this matter, working alongside several of our team members as well as his colleague William G. Meyer III from Settle Meyer Law. By holding William Grant & Sons accountable for their flagrant misappropriation and unauthorized use, we hope to secure peace of mind for Sailor Jerry’s remaining family, and see that justice is served.

Stolen Images from a Hawaii Tattoo Legend

Known for his iconic Chinatown shop located in Honolulu, Norman Keith Collins or “Sailor Jerry” became one of the most famous and important names in American tattoo art, and led the industry with his bold and distinctive style. Working until his death in 1973, Sailor Jerry was considered a true local legend for his efforts tattooing servicemen during World War II.

That legend has now been grossly misappropriated by William Grant & Sons, according to Sailor Jerry’s remaining family members. His surviving widow Louise Collins has never seen a penny of the proceeds from the company’s popular Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum product, which is entirely marketed around the likeness and personal history of Sailor Jerry. Ms. Collins currently lives on social security income.

Meanwhile, Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum has become a global brand name that earns multi-million dollar revenues for William Grant & Sons. To add insult to injury, the company is expected to launch a new distilled liquor this summer, again using Sailor Jerry’s name and image.

About the lawsuit, Ms. Collins was quoted as saying: “I am appalled to see what these folks have done with Jerry’s name and legacy. This was my husband, the father of my children, and no one ever even asked our family for permission to use him in this way.”

Providing Powerful Advocacy for Personality Rights

In the state of Hawaii, individuals have clear property rights to their own likeness, name, voice, and signature, up to at least 70 years after they have passed away. Unlike some other states, the law also protects both individuals and “personalities,” or any persona that carries distinctive identifying attributes with the individual in question.

Our legal team at Davis Levin Livingston is committed to defending these personality rights for Sailor Jerry and his descendants. Providing tough legal advocacy and over four decades of experience, our skilled lawyers are ready to take this fight all the way to court if needed – and we will seek to ensure the best possible outcome for Ms. Collins and her family.

For more information, read our Press Release.

If you have a related case, don’t hesitate to contact our Hawaii-based team at (808) 740-0633 for a free consultation.
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