Thursday, April 15, 2010

Naming food product after Einstein

Dear Rich: I have a food product I am developing and I want to call it Einstein lunch drinks. I would position the copy to read the "smart way to lunch." I would talk about how if Einstein would have created the perfect lunch he would have done it this way: with a perfect balance of energy and complete nutrition etc. Is this considered public domain and can I go in this direction? The Dear Rich Staff would suggest that you "don't go there." Einstein's estate has been exploiting the great man's persona for commercial purposes for everything from children's books to a 10-foot Legoland statue and is represented by Greenlight, the agency that also reps deceased celebrities such as Steve McQueen, Bruce Lee, and Johnny Cash. (Wow, we wish there was a movie with that cast!) The ability to exploit a deceased celebrity is based on a principle known as the right of publicity. In the case of certain celebrities, and in some states, the right can extend beyond the celebrity's life.
Einstein and food. We used to eat at place on 9th Avenue in San Francisco called Einstein's Cafe based on the "smart food" principle but we assume that was unlicensed and anyway, it's closed. (BTW, we can't say we were wild about their sandwiches.) And there is an east coast chain of bagel spots called Einstein Bros. Bagels which appears not to step on anybody's rights since it's distinguishable. Although we wish you the best in your endeavors, we're not sure about the Einstein-food connection. We recently finished a 21-hour audiobook on Einstein (check out the sample to get an idea of what it takes to be the world's greatest audio narrator) and we don't recall one mention of Einstein's dietary habits although there are reports he promoted vegetarianism.