Albert Einstein's image has been used to sell everything from computer software to life insurance. In 2009, General Motors used the legendary physicist's face it in an ad for the 2010 GMC Terrain. It ran only once in a single issue of People Magazine.
Hebrew University of Jerusalem sued the automaker in 2010, arguing Einstein's will gave the school all rights to the use of his image. This week, however, a Los Angeles court said those rights expired 55 years after the scientist's death.
"Now, nearly 60 years after his death, that persona should be freely available to those who seek to appropriate it as part of their own expression, even in tasteless ads," ruled US District Judge Howard Matz. "The obviously humorous ad for the 2010 Terrain having been published 55 years or more after Einstein's death, it is unlikely that any viewer of it could reasonably infer that Einstein... was endorsing the GMC Terrain."