October 5, 2017 / 11:41 PM / 3 years ago

Audrey Hepburn's son sues children's charity over use of mother's name

(Reuters) - A son of the late actress and humanitarian Audrey Hepburn on Thursday sued a children’s charity bearing her name to stop it from putting the Hepburn name on a wide array of clothing, handbags, portraits, umbrellas and other items.

Sean Hepburn Ferrer, son of the late actress Audrey Hepburn, attends an exhibition displaying his mother's personal collection by auction house Christie's in Hong Kong, China September 1, 2017. REUTERS/Bobby Yip

Sean Hepburn Ferrer, who once chaired the Audrey Hepburn Children’s Fund, accused the charity of infringing trademark and other rights belonging to him and Luca Dotti, his half-brother.

Dotti and Ferrer had founded the charity, which was once called Hollywood for Children Inc (HFC), following their mother’s 1993 death at age 63.

Ferrer’s lawsuit in federal court in Los Angeles follows a lawsuit that the charity filed against him in February in Los Angeles County Superior Court.

The charity in its lawsuit said Ferrer’s “increasingly hostile actions” impeded its ability to take part in exhibitions and raise money, and sought to stop his alleged interference.

“We stand by the allegations in our state court case,” Steven Young, a lawyer for the charity, said in an interview.

“Mr. Ferrer, for reasons known only to him, continues to try to disrupt and destroy the ability of the Audrey Hepburn Children’s Fund to raise money for various children’s charities. We are confident that the judicial process will ensure a just result,” Young said.

In Thursday’s lawsuit, Ferrer said he resigned as chairman in 2012 amid disagreements over spending, but let the charity use his mother’s name, persona and legacy case-by-case.

He said he has granted no such rights since 2015 and that the charity’s subsequent infringements falsely suggest that he, Dotti or their mother endorsed them.

“HFC is contending effectively that it has been granted a perpetual, worldwide license to do whatever it wants with Audrey Hepburn’s name and related intellectual property,” Lawrence Segal, a lawyer for Ferrer, said. “That is not the case.”

Dotti did not join his half-brother as a plaintiff. “There is a disagreement between Mr. Ferrer and Mr. Dotti as to the requirements for granting a license,” Segal said.

Thursday’s lawsuit seeks unspecified damages and an injunction against further infringements.

Hepburn starred in many successful 1950s and 1960s films, including “Sabrina,” “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” and “My Fair Lady.”

She devoted much of her later life to charity, becoming a UNICEF goodwill ambassador.

U.S. President George H.W. Bush awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom six weeks before her death.

The federal case is Ferrer v. Hollywood for Children Inc, U.S. District Court, Central District of California, No. 17-07318. The state case is Hollywood for Children Inc v. Ferrer, California Superior Court, Los Angeles County, No. BC649828.

Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Leslie Adler

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