The manufacturer that sells the Bosch®, Thermador® and Gaggenau® brands of home appliances has sued the Julia Child Foundation for Gastronomy and the Culinary Arts seeking a declaration that it has not infringed the defendant’s trademarks and copyrights or the publicity rights related to the late Julia Child. BSH Home Appliances Corp. v. The Julia Child Found. for Gastronomy & the Culinary Arts, No. 1:2012cv11590 (U.S. Dist. Ct., D. Mass, filed August 24, 2012).  

According to the complaint, Julia Child used the plaintiff’s Thermador® oven for many years both on the set of The French Chef TV program and in her personal kitchen, which, after she died, was donated to and appears in the Smithsonian Institution. The oven maker claims that it has used images of Julia Child “and references to the well-known historical fact of her use of Thermador products in various media, including on its website and on its social media web pages.” The plaintiff further notes, “These uses do not state or imply any endorsement by Ms. Child of Thermador products. Rather, Plaintiff’s use of these photos and references to Julia Child’s name and use of Thermador products reflect on the long history, significance and influence of Thermador products on American society and culture, and Ms. Child’s documented and well-known use of those products.” The plaintiff alleges that its uses of the image and name of Julia Child “are not directly connected to the sale of any merchandise,” but are used “on a timeline chronicling the company’s history and in the historical ‘Our Heritage’ section of the Thermador website.”  

The defendant has allegedly warned the manufacturer that continued use of the name, image, likeness and celebrity identity of the late Julia Child, and the various trademarks and copyrights related to Julia Child, which are purportedly within the foundation’s “exclusive ownership and control,” constitutes infringement, trademark infringement and infringes a post-mortem right of Julia Child’s right of publicity. The plaintiff seeks a declaration that (i) it has not infringed any protectable trademark, copyright or right of publicity under any state or federal law, (ii) the late Julia Child was a domiciliary of Massachusetts when she died, (iii) Massachusetts law should apply to any claim, and (iv) the plaintiff “has the right to proceed with the use of or reference to the late Julia Child’s name, image, likeness, celebrity identity, and trademarks related to the late Julia Child in connection with Plaintiff’s historical presentation, including but not limited to the timeline on its website and in other media.”