A Massachusetts-based cannabis company is being sued for $ 9 million by Sacha Baron Cohen, who is suing them for misusing his character on a billboard without any of his permission.
Monday, Baron-Cohen filed a civil lawsuit against Solar Therapeutics, Inc., and its president, Edward Dow III, in a United States District Court in Boston. In the complaint filed Monday according to the documents, the billboard featured a picture of Baron Cohen standing as Borat, holding up two thumbs up, alongside the name of the Somerset-based cannabis company and the phrase “HAPPY 4/20′′, according to the documents, this is Borat’s catchphrase.” Cohen alleges that the use of Borat’s catchphrase “It’s Nice!” violates his rights to copyrighted imagery, violates his publicity rights, and constitutes false advertising. In response, the plaintiff states that he believes the sign indicates that he endorses Solar Therapeutics, Inc. and is affiliated with it.
Borat is a federally registered character, and Baron Cohen’s company, PYCT, is the holder of the trademark on it. A document states that the Cohens and their company PYCT never permitted an advertisement or marketing campaign involving the Borat character to happen anywhere other than in television series or films that feature Borat.
Cohen says he takes advantage of his characters to “reach and educate people worldwide on important social issues,” and he has refused “countless” opportunities because they would erode his reputation as an activist and actor — including a $4 million offer to star in an advertising campaign.
Defendants falsely portrayed Mr. Baron Cohen as having endorsed their products and being affiliated with their business by the means of the billboard. Despite the evidence, Mr. Baron Cohen never smoked cannabis anywhere in his life, according to the court documents. He has no plans to endorse, promote, or advertise cannabis, as it is a controversial product. Whether mistakenly or otherwise, his young children would be appalled if they learned that he is associated with the cannabis industry.
A cannabis ad campaign would not be of interest to him, no matter how much money it is involved. “Despite countless opportunities to advertise, Mr. Baron Cohen has never marketed any commercial product or service for profit in the United States or the United Kingdom.” They were under the impression Mr. Baron Cohen would not become aware of the Billboard, so they took a gamble and copied and used Mr. Baron Cohen’s image without ever paying for it, according to the complaint.