General Motors Co. faces a lawsuit for unauthorized use of the Albert Einstein's image in an ad for the GMC Terrain. The owner of Einstein's publicity rights, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, filed a suit against GM in US District Court in California last week for over $75,000.
The university claims that GM fraudulently used the likeness. Before Einstein died in 1955 at the age of 76, he had willed his publicity rights to the school.
Since GM had emerged from bankruptcy last summer, it had sought to make its marketing campaign as ideal as possible.
But very recently, Chairman and Chief Executive Ed Whitacre Jr. got flak for allegedly stretching the truth in a recent commercial by stating that its federal loans had been repaid. Actually, GM made the payment using unspent loan funds and the government still does own 61% of the company.
Earlier this month, GM hired a new marketing guru and Chevrolet's advertising agencies have been changed twice in the past few months.
John T. Brooks, a partner with Chicago law firm Foley & Lardner LLP who specializes in estates and trusts, said that GM may have thought that Einstein is dead and his rights are all in the public domain.
On the other hand, Ryndee Carney, GM's spokeswoman, said that GM paid for the right to use the Einstein image from a "reputable firm," which gives clients the right to use the images. [via detnews]