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This week's IP news round-up

9 February 2005

We kick off this week with the heart-warming story of Russell Christoff. In 1986 Christoff, an actor and model, went along to a photo shoot for Nescafe. He was photographed with his nose in a cup of ‘Taster's Choice’ coffee and was paid $250 for the shoot – rising to $2,000 if the photo was eventually used by Nescafe.

In the event, Nescafe did use the photo – on the front of their coffee jars, on posters, on coupons and even on a screensaver – but didn’t bother to tell poor old Russell who had no idea that his face was appearing on advertising materials as far away as Japan. In fact, he only finally discovered how famous he had become when a woman accosted him with a jar of coffee in his local shop, saying “you look just like the guy on my coffee jar”.

According to the LA Times, Christoff sued Nescafe and a jury determined that the company should have paid $330,000 for the use of his likeness. They also voted to award Christoff damages equal to 5% of the profit from Taster's Choice sales during the six-year period – an impressive $15.3 million. But how did it take Christoff so long to find out that he was the face of Taster’s Choice? "I don't buy Taster's Choice," he explained. "I do beans." Fair enough.

Meanwhile, in other American IP news, the family who own the marketing rights to Winnie the Pooh have had their claim for royalties from DVD sales thrown out by a US court. According to the Associated Press, ‘in March, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Charles McCoy threw out the case brought by Stephen Slesinger Inc., ruling the company illegally obtained confidential documents from Disney offices... The judge dismissed the 13-year-old lawsuit with prejudice, meaning the company cannot sue again on the claim that Disney owed millions of dollars in royalties for Pooh movies released on DVD.’ Read all about it.

And finally, our chum the IPKat brings us news of a bold attempt by Proctor and Gamble to register the words ‘Merry Christmas’ as a trademark.

Explains the Kat, ‘P&G argued that the mark was distinctive since the goods at issue were functional rather than decorative and it would be inappropriate to use the term as a greeting on these goods. The hearing officer however concluded that the mark was not registrable because it lacked distinctiveness.’ Which is lucky, because had P&G been successful in their attempt, then next year we’d all have to wish our friends a Merry Christmas.

Until next week.

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