Brazilian soccer legend Pele has sued Samsung in a US Federal Court for at least
$30m alleging the Korean electronics giant improperly used a lookalike in an
effort to highlight an ad they ran in the New York Times without his permission.
According to Pele’s complaint filed in the Federal Court in Chicago, Samsung
placed the ad for ultra high definition TVs after failing to agree a deal with him in
2013 to promote its products. The ad does not specifically identify or mention
Pele, but includes a lookalike who is said “very closely resembles him” and a
small image of a footballer doing a bicycle kick, “perfected and famously used by
Pele” the complaint alleges.
It is widely believed that Pele heavily relies on his
image and endorsement rights for much of his income and it is alleged that the
ad will hurt the value of his endorsement rights and confuse customers into
believing he endorses Samsung products. The US lawsuit was filed by Pele IP
Ownership LLC which owns Pele’s trademark and publicity rights. Pele has hired
an attorney who represented basketball legend, Michael Jordan, in a similar case
last year which helped Jordan secure an $8.9m jury verdict for the unauthorised
use of his identity in an ad for Sports Illustrated magazine.
Ronan Hynes, Partner in Sellors Litigation & Dispute Resolution Department
commented that: “Image and endorsement rights are big business for high profile
celebrity sports stars. Big name brands such as Samsung view endorsements as
an extremely effective marketing tool which can generate significant sales
revenue, increase brand awareness and equity. In this case, whether the link was
accidental or by design, we shall have to simply wait & see”.
Should you require more information on intellectual property matters, please
contact Ronan Hynes, Partner for expert legal advice on 061-414355 or [email protected]