We have been tracking notable cases addressing a person’s rights of publicity.

Julia Child and Thermador

On Aug. 24, 2012, BSH Home Appliances Corp. – which owns the Thermador brand of culinary equipment – sued The Julia Child Foundation seeking a declaration that the company’s use of photos of the late Julia Child together with Thermador products do not violate the renowned chef’s rights of publicity.

According to the Complaint filed in the federal district court for Massachusetts, “[BSH’s] use of these photos and references to Julia Child’s name and use of Thermador products reflect on the long history, significance and influence of Thermador products on American society and culture, and Ms. Child’s documented and well-known use of those products.” See Complaint.

Einstein and GM

In 2010, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem sued GM over the automakers’ use of Albert Einstein’s image in an ad placed in People Magazine. The ad – which superimposed the Nobel Prize winner’s head on a male underwear model – carried the slogan “Ideas are Sexy Too.” The University has said that Einstein’s stepdaughter inherited control of Einstein’s name and likeness upon his death and signed them over to the school in 1982.

Earlier this year, the California federal judge overseeing the case, denied GM’s motion for summary judgment on whether the University owned Einstein’s publicity rights. See the Court’s Opinion.

However, Law360 is reporting that during a recent hearing, Judge Matz closely questioned the University’s attorneys asking them “What are the public interests — the societal values — advanced by having a [publicity] right coterminous with or lengthier than copyright? . . .The generation of people growing up with mobile devices and Twitter . . .value privacy less, because they surrender it more readily.”

Kim Kardashian and The Gap

Finally, on August 24, Kim Kardashian and The Gap, Inc. notified the District Court for the Central District of California that they have reached a settlement of Ms. Kardashian’s $20 million suit which claimed that the clothing retailer’s Old Navy subsidiary had used a look-alike model in a TV ad. See Notice of Settlement.

Sources: Case No. 1:12-cv-11590-MBB, BSH Home Appliances Corp. v. The Julie Childs Foundation for Gastronomy and The Culinary Arts (D. Mass.); Case No. 2:10-cv-03790-AHM-JC, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem v. General Motors LLC (C.D. Cal.); Case No. 2:11-cv-06568-DSF-MAN, Kardashian et al v. The Gap Inc et al, (C.D. Cal.); Law360.

This article was prepared by Saul Perloff (sperloff@fulbright.com / 210 270 7166) of Fulbright’s Intellectual Property and Technology Practice.