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An Oklahoma appeals court has handed Disney and Pixar a victory against a stock race car driver who alleged the animated film Cars misappropriated the likeness of a red race car with a yellow 95.
How does a race car sue for violation of its publicity rights? As we’ve discussed many times, publicity claims have been increasing exponentially in recent years. Individuals have brought cases seeking to protect the commercial exploitation of their names, voices, signatures, photographs, images, likenesses, distinctive appearances, gestures and mannerisms.
But their wheels? Mark Brill alleged that the fictional character Lightning McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson) in the movie was too similar to his own race car. Apparently Brill is a big deal in the racing world and is closely associated with such a car.
On November 30, the Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals affirmed a lower court’s summary judgment order putting the breaks on Brill’s lawsuit.
The justices relied on a Ninth Circuit standard set in the Vanna White v. Robot-With-A-Blond-Whig case in which essentially analyzes whether the average viewer would mistake the car in the movie for Brill’s car. The court found that “a fictional, talking, driver-less red race car with the number 95 on it cannot be construed as a likeness of a driver of a similarly colored/numbered race car.”
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