Eighteen of our nation’s greatest athletes, including Olympians Mark Spitz, Greg Louganis, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Janet Evans, Dara Torres, and Amanda Beard, have joined together to sue the Samsung Corporation and its related entities (Samsung) over the alleged misappropriation of their names and likenesses in connection with a Facebook application. The plaintiffs allege that Samsung used their names, images, and background information without permission on Samsung’s “US Olympic Genome Project” Facebook application, in “an attempt to link plaintiffs to consumers.” According to the plaintiffs, the use of their names and images in connection with the Facebook application creates the impression that they endorse Samsung and its products, most notably the Galaxy product that Samsung advertises in connection with the application. The plaintiffs therefore allege the misappropriation of their names and likenesses under the common law, and a violation of their statutory right of publicity under California Civil Code Section 3344. To compensate them for the alleged unauthorized use of their names and likenesses, the plaintiffs request the licensing fees that should have been paid to them and interest on those fees, general damages, punitive damages, and attorneys’ fees.
According to Samsung, the US Olympic Genome Project application will “connect people across America with Team USA athletes in amazing unpredictable ways,” and will allow users to “discover what [they] have in common with Team USA athletes. Make amazing connections, earn points, go for prizes, and have fun.” The app is branded with the SAMSUNG trademark as well as the official trademark of the United States Olympic Committee, which Samsung claims it worked closely with to develop the application. The Facebook page that advertises the application includes a link for Team USA athletes to ask questions or to opt out of the US. Olympic Genome Project.
The case is currently pending before the Superior Court in Los Angeles, California.