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GM wins business litigation with owner of Einstein’s image

General Motors seems to be doing well for itself as far as recent business litigation goes. The well-known automaker recently won a lawsuit brought against it by the foreign university which owns the publicity rights for the late scientific genius Albert Einstein. California readers may be familiar with the business litigation suit, which dealt with GM’s use of Einstein’s image in an ad published in People magazine back in 2009.

GM’s use of the famous scientist’s image was vindicated by a U.S. District Court judge, who ruled that Einstein numbers among those ultimate public figures that should be freely available for the public to use in personal expression. The judge said that this should be the case even when the personal expression runs in the form of “tasteless” advertisements. According to him, Einstein embodies genius, and his image has been imprinted upon the cultural heritage of our country.

GM had indicated that it had every right to believe that its agency working on the Einstein ad legally obtained the right to use the scientist’s images from the Israeli university which owned the publicity rights. The automaker also refused to issue any official statements following the lawsuit’s resolution. Of course, there doesn’t really seem to be much for the company to say since it was victorious in the lawsuit.

California companies that find themselves engaged in similar lawsuits may benefit by ensuring that they fully understand their rights and responsibilities surrounding the dispute leading up to the business litigation. It can be important to have a full understanding of such issues in order to protect a company’s resources. Disputes between businesses can sometimes be amicably resolved, but in cases where that proves impossible, each side has the right to tell its own side of the story in a court of law.

Source: Los Angeles Times, “GM wins Einstein ad lawsuit, hires 3,000 from HP,” Jerry Hirsch, Oct. 18, 2012

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