Tuesday, December 31, 2013

White v. Samsung Electronics America, Inc. case brief

White v. Samsung Electronics America, Inc. case brief summary
971 F.2d 1395 (1992)

CASE SYNOPSIS
Plaintiff entertainer appealed from an order of the United States District Court for the Central District of California, granting summary judgment to defendant advertising agency in plaintiff's action alleging infringement of various intellectual property rights under state and federal law.

CASE FACTS
Defendant advertising agency prepared a series of advertisements for defendant electronic company. One particular ad depicted a robot dressed in a wig, gown and jewelry, selected to resemble plaintiff's hair and dress. Unlike the other celebrities used in the advertising campaign, plaintiff neither consented to nor was paid for the ads. Plaintiff commenced an action against defendants alleging infringement of various intellectual property rights under state and federal law. Plaintiff appealed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of defendants.

DISCUSSION

  • The court affirmed the grant of summary judgment on the right of privacy claim, but reversed the judgment on the right to publicity and the Lanham Act claims. 
  • The court held that for the advertising to be effective, it must evoke the celebrity's identity.
  • Defendants attempted to elevate its ad above the status of garden-variety commercial speech by pointing to the ad's parody of plaintiff. 
  • Defendants' argument was unavailing. 
  • Unless the first amendment barred all right of publicity actions - and it did not, then it did not bar the case. 
  • The court reasoned that plaintiff pleaded claims sufficient to go to a jury.

CONCLUSION
The court affirmed the grant of summary judgment on plaintiff's right of privacy claim, but reversed the judgment on the right to publicity and the Lanham Act claims because plaintiff pleaded claims sufficient to go to a jury.

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