The End for Einstein Marks Beginning for New Ideas

On December 12, 2012, in Copyrights, by Brian A. Hall

UnIP (UnIntellectual Property): Right of Publicity for Einstein

While not the traditional kind of intellectual property, a recent case highlights a limitation on the related claim of right of publicity.  The issue before the United States District Court of the Central District of California was whether Hebrew University, to whom Albert Einstein bequeathed his rights and property, could establish a claim against General Motors for violating the right of publicity after GM used Einstein’s image and head in a commercial advertisement.  Remember, the common law right of publicity provides an individual the right to control use of her identify for commercial purposes during her lifetime, and in some states, for a post-mortem maximum duration.  The Court, applying New Jersey law, ruled that a maximum post-mortem duration of 50 years precluded Hebrew University from sustaining the cause of action against GM.  The decision specifically contemplated the 70 year post-mortem right under copyright law but ultimately chose to limit to 50.

Let the ideas begin, and the potential influx of Einstein-related advertisements!



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