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Sacha Baron Cohen of Borat fame suing Somerset company over billboard

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A famous comedian is suing a Somerset company for reportedly using his likeness without his permission.

Sacha Baron Cohen is looking for an estimated $9 million in a lawsuit concerning a billboard allegedly post by Solar Therapeutics showing his likeness as Borat according to a lawsuit filed in Boston.

“This is an action for willful copyright infringement, false advertising, and violation of the Massachusetts statute against misappropriation of rights of publicity. Without permission of any kind, the Defendants deliberately featured the portrait, picture, image, likeness, and persona of Mr. Baron Cohen and his “Borat” movie character in a commercial billboard (the “Billboard”) on a busy interstate highway in Massachusetts, to advertise the sale of the Defendants’ cannabis products. The following is a photograph of the Billboard, which, upon information and belief, reached hundreds of thousands of viewers per day for several weeks.”

According to Cohen, he never endorsed the business.

“By use of the Billboard, the Defendants falsely have conveyed to the public that Mr. Baron Cohen has endorsed their products and is affiliated with their business. To the contrary, Mr. Baron Cohen never has used cannabis in his life. He never would participate in an advertising campaign for cannabis, for any amount of money. Mr. Baron Cohen never has been involved in advertising any commercial products or services anywhere in the United States or the United Kingdom, despite countless opportunities to do so.”

“The Defendants knowingly misappropriated Mr. Baron Cohen’s portrait, picture, image, likeness, and persona to increase the Defendants’ sales revenues, which, upon information and belief, are approximately $26 million per year. Upon information and belief, the Defendants believed Mr. Baron Cohen would not learn about the Billboard, so they took a gamble, guessing they could copy and use Mr. Baron Cohen’s image without ever having to pay for it. In this action, Mr. Baron Cohen seeks market value compensation, statutory treble damages, and punitive and other damages, estimated to be in a total amount of at least $9 million.”

The billboard appeared on the highway from April 9 to April 27th. On April 24th, Cohen’s attorneys sent a cease-and-desist order.

“Mr. Baron Cohen is highly protective of his image and persona, and those of his characters. Mr. Baron Cohen is very careful with the manner in which he uses his persona and his characters to interact with his fans and the general public. The reason why Mr. Baron Cohen never has used cannabis is that he does not believe it is a healthy choice.”

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