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TikTok Sued for Unlawful Use of Bethenny Frankel’s Persona (1)

Oct. 6, 2022, 2:02 PMUpdated: Oct. 6, 2022, 2:58 PM

TikTok Inc. was hit Thursday with a proposed class suit by entrepreneur and television personality Bethenny Frankel, who alleges the platform unlawfully allowed the use of her persona in connection with the promotion of counterfeit goods.

Unscrupulous companies and individuals have used the images, voices, and content of Frankel and others to sell counterfeit items through TikTok’s platform, according to the lawsuit, filed in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York.

Frankel founded the lifestyle brand Skinnygirl and the disaster relief initiative BStrong, and starred in television programs including “The Real Housewives of New York City.” Aside from not being compensated, her reputation and brand are being damaged and tarnished through unauthorized associations with counterfeit goods, she alleges.

With videos getting tens of millions of views, promoting counterfeit products on TikTok has become a growing issue, Frankel says. Countless creators post on TikTok, looking for ways to get more views. “Hijacking” the likenesses, images, and voices of well-known influencers like Frankel “has become commonplace,” the suit alleges.

An increasing number of young content creators on the platform are promoting counterfeit goods, with videos receiving tens of millions of views, Frankel alleges.

TikTok has ignored demands to take action against this conduct, and has “even taken countervailing positions,” Frankel alleges. In one instance when Frankel posted a video meant to inform consumers of the deception, TikTok removed Frankel’s content as “abusive,” the suit alleges.

If TikTok isn’t enjoined from misappropriating and continuing to disseminate the personas of Frankel and others whose personas were similarly misused, Frankel and proposed class members will continue to suffer irreparable harm, the suit alleges.

Causes of Action: Right of Publicity; N.Y. Civil Rights Law § 51; common law unfair competition.

Relief: Judgment that TikTok violated class members’ right of publicity and engaged in unfair competition; injunctive relief; order requiring TikTok to dispose of materials and copies of any materials that contain or reflect any information derived from Frankel’s and class members’ personas, voices, content, and/or likenesses.

Potential class size: Unknown number of individuals nationwide whose personas were similarly misused.

Response: TikTok didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Attorneys: Frankel is represented by Morgan & Morgan PA.

The case is Frankel v. TikTok Inc., S.D.N.Y., No. 1:22-cv-08503, complaint 10/6/22.

(Updated throughout with additional details from lawsuit )

To contact the reporter on this story: Julie Steinberg in Washington at jsteinberg@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rob Tricchinelli at rtricchinelli@bloomberglaw.com; Brian Flood at bflood@bloomberglaw.com; Andrew Harris at aharris@bloomberglaw.com