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There’s no shortage of entertainment-related cannabis companies — but a Borat brand isn’t among them and never will be, according to a lawsuit filed Monday.
Sacha Baron Cohen is suing Solar Therapeutics for copyright infringement, false advertising and misappropriation of his right of publicity over a Massachusetts interstate billboard showing his famous character giving a thumbs up and exclaiming, “It’s Nice!”
“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,” writes attorney David Condon in the complaint. “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.”
In fact, Baron Cohen notes he’s never taken any corporate brand deal despite receiving “countless opportunities” because he thinks it would undermine his credibility as an actor and social activist.
Baron Cohen says Solar Therapeutics figured the ad would boost sales and “took a gamble” that he wouldn’t find out about it. But he did take notice and he isn’t happy. Not only is he “highly protective” of his image, he also doesn’t believe cannabis use is a healthy choice.
“With his ‘Ali G’ character, portrayed by Mr. Baron Cohen in the HBO television series Da Ali G Show, Mr. Baron Cohen has spent much of his career making a mockery of ‘stoner’ culture — a culture which the Defendants’ Billboard overtly celebrates,” writes Condon in the complaint, which is embedded below. “In addition, Mr. Baron Cohen was born into an Orthodox Jewish family; he is an Observant Jew; and he is proud of his cultural heritage. He does not wish to be involved in the heated controversy among the Orthodox Jewish community about whether cannabis can be used under Jewish traditions, customs, and rules.”
Plus, despite several states giving cannabis the green light, it’s still federally illegal. After Baron Cohen’s lawyer sent a cease-and-desist letter, the company said the billboard had been taken down but it has declined to compensate Cohen for the unauthorized use of his image and that of his famous alter ego.
As he believes the infringement was willful, Baron Cohen is seeking trebled statutory damages, plus actual and punitive damages and disgorgement of profits attributable to the billboard.
Nicholas J. Hemond, an attorney for Solar Therapeutics on Tuesday sent The Hollywood Reporter this statement via email: “I am aware of the allegations made against Solar Therapeutics, Inc. (Solar). Upon receipt of the cease and desist letter from Mr. Cohen’s legal counsel Solar immediately requested that the sign company remove the billboard in question. As there is an active case before the court, we have no further comment at this time.”
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