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An interesting right of publicity case involving the estate of the late extreme-sports athlete Dean Potter has been filed in the Southern District of Indiana. Mr. Potter’s estate is suing LG Electronics for unauthorized use of Mr. Potter’s likeness and appearance. In a commercial titled Listen. Think. Answer., LG uses footage from the movie Moonwalk, in which Mr. Potter traverses a highline tied to Cathedral Peak in Yosemite National Park as the full moon rises in the background, to advertise the LG OLED TV with AI.

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LG claims to have obtained a license to use the Moonwalk footage from Moonwalk’s director, Mikey Schaefer. However, the Complaint (below) asserts that Mr. Potter had signed a release for still photographs only, not video footage. Potter’s estate also maintains that Mr. Schaefer was not able to authorize licenses or sublicenses, meaning Schaefer could exploit the Moonwalk footage himself but not authorize third-party exploitation such as the LG commercial.

“Because Mr. Potter never consented to Mr. Schaefer’s trading in the invaluable equity of Mr. Potter’s likeness in Moonwalk, and/or his reputation as a highlining pioneer, to shill television sets, Mr. Schaefer could not license to Defendants Mr. Potter’s rights, including, inter alia, Potter’s publicity and common law trademark rights.”

This should be an interesting case to follow. Stay tuned for updates. RIP Dean Potter.

“Defendant’s advertisement of a product that enables a sedentary lifestyle, wherein material demands can be met without moving from the couch in the confines of one’s living room, is antithetical to what Mr. Potter stood for in life: an appreciation of the splendor of the outdoors and a celebration of the freedom to forge one’s own path in uncharted terrain.”

Dean Potter LLC v. LG Electronics USA, Inc.

Court Case Number: 1:19-cv-04085-JPH-TAB
File Date: Tuesday, October 1, 2019
Plaintiff: Dean Potter LLC
Plaintiff Counsel: John Tehranian, Jenny S. Kim of ONE LLP
Defendant: LG Electronics USA, Inc.
Cause: Infringement of Right of Publicity, False Association, False Endorsement, Common Law Unfair Competition, Unjust Enrichment, Conversion, Deception, Violation of Indiana Crime Victims’ Act
Court: Southern District of Indiana
Judge: James Patrick Hanlon
Referred To: Tim A. Baker