Soccer great Pele is following in the footsteps of basketball legend Michael Jordan by using Chicagos federal court to try to enforce his image rights.
The Brazilian, 75, has hired Jordans attorney to sue Korean electronics manufacturer Samsung for an advertisement that ran in The New York Times.
A lawsuit filed earlier this month on Peles behalf by lawyer Fred Sperling alleges that Samsung improperly used a Pele look-alike in the October advertisement for its ultra high-definition televisions after breaking off negotiations with Pele to use his identity.
Although the wording of the advertisement contains no direct mention of Pele, the combination of a large portrait photograph of an elderly black man who very closely resembles the man widely considered the greatest soccer player of all time, with a smaller picture of a white soccer player performing a modified bicycle or scissors-kick, perfected and famously used by Pele, is likely to confuse consumers and hurt the value of Peles endorsement rights, the suit claims.
Pele, who has in the past signed endorsement deals with companies including Procter & Gamble, Volkswagen, Emirates airline and Subway restaurants, relies on such deals for most of his income, it states.
He was negotiating with Samsung in late 2013 when at the last minute, (Samsung) pulled out of the negotiations and never obtained the right to use Peles identity in any manner or in any format, Sperling wrote in the suit.
Sperling, of the law firm Schiff Hardin, in August helped Jordan win an $8.9 million jury verdict against the former supermarket chain Dominicks for the unauthorized use of his identity in a print ad. The case was later settled along with a similar case against supermarket chain Jewel-Osco, which is also owned by Dominicks owner Cerberus Capital, for an undisclosed sum.
The Jordan cases, however, may have been more clear-cut, since both the Jewel and the Dominicks ads explicitly used Jordans name.
A spokeswoman for Samsung declined to comment on the case.