A California state court recently dismissed a lawsuit brought by former Olympians, including Mark Spitz and Greg Louganis, against Samsung for right of publicity violations over a Facebook app that used their names, images and biographical information without their consent.
The app, called the “U.S. Olympic Genome Project,” compared a user’s Facebook profile with biographical data of almost 8,000 United States Olympic athletes, showing a user what they had in common with various Olympians. For example, a user could determine if they were from the same hometown as Amanda Beard or shared the same favorite food as
Mark Spitz. The former Olympians sought to bar Samsung’s use of their names, images and biographical data, under California’s Right of Publicity laws, claiming that this use without their authority improperly created the impression that they endorsed Samsung’s products and business when they had not. Samsung moved to strike the Olympians’ lawsuit under California’s anti-SLAP statute, which allows defendants to seek dismissal
of lawsuits that chill First Amendment expression. Samsung argued, and the California court agreed, that although Samsung created the Genome Project, and its trademark was displayed on several pages of the app, the Genome Project was not commercial speech,
particularly because it did not advertise a specific Samsung product, and was protected speech under the First Amendment. More…