On Monday, movie and television star Sacha Baron Cohen and his company Please You Can Touch LLC (PYCT) filed a lawsuit against cannabis company Solar Therapeutics Inc. in the District of Massachusetts. Baron Cohen alleged that the defendant is guilty of false endorsement, copyright infringement for their use of his Borat character on one of their billboards.
Baron Cohen filed the suit after it was brought to his attention that this company had been using the image of Borat, as portrayed by Baron Cohen, with his characteristic thumbs up pose and the words “It’s nice”, derived from Borat’s signature catchphrase “Very nice!”. The plaintiff said he was upset with this representation and claimed that he “never has used cannabis in his life” and “never would participate in an advertising campaign for cannabis, for any amount of money.”
Baron Cohen stated he does not believe that cannabis is a healthy choice and “would be appalled if his young children were to discover that he was associated with the promotion of cannabis.”
This is also a religious issue for Cohen, who was born into an Orthodox Jewish family and considers himself observant.
“He does not wish to be involved in the heated controversy among the Orthodox Jewish community about whether cannabis can be used under Jewish traditions, customs, and rules – a controversy in which many rabbinical leaders have stated that cannabis use is a violation of Jewish law,” the complaint said.
Due to Massachusetts laws regarding rights of publicity, the defendant may have to pay damages to both Cohen and his LLC depending on the ruling of the court. Since PYCT owns the copyright to Borat’s likeness, they would receive any compensation for all applicable copyrights and any other intellectual property interests for the character. According to the laws surrounding celebrity compensation for advertising, defendants are obligated to pay the copyright holder the same amount (at a minimum) that they would be required to pay the celebrity.
Baron Cohen is seeking $9,000,000 in compensation for the defendants actions and requested a permanent injunction restraining and enjoining defendants from using his likeness and intellectual property.
The plaintiff is represented by Louison, Costello, Condon & Pfaff.