Soccer star Pelé is suing Samsung for $30 million. The 75-year-old Brazilian athlete claims that the company used a lookalike of him in a full-page ad for its UHD TVs last year. According to a report from Reuters, Pelé filed the lawsuit in Chicago earlier this month, with the complaint noting that the ad used a large portrait photograph of a model that “very closely resembles” Pelé. Next to this was an image of a Samsung TV showing a soccer player in the middle of a “modified bicycle or scissors-kick, perfected and famously used by Pelé.”
The ad does not mention Pele by name
The ad, which appeared in The New York Times, does not mention Pelé at all, and it’s possible to argue that the white soccer player is actually performing a volley rather than a bicycle kick. However, the complaint notes that Samsung previously tried to use Pelé’s image for marketing in 2013, but that the South Korean electronics company pulled out of the deal at the last minute, and “never obtained the right to use Pelé’s identity in any manner or in any format.”
Pelé’s lawyers argue that the ad will confuse consumers and dilute the value of the soccer star’s endorsements. When Brazil hosted the World Cup in 2014, Pelé earned $25 million from endorsements, reported Bloomberg, which included deals with Subway, Volkswagen, Santander, and Procter & Gamble. “The goal is to obtain fair compensation for the authorized use of Pelé’s identity and to prevent future unauthorized uses,” attorney Frederick Sperling told Reuters. Sperling previously helped Michael Jordan win $8.9 million in a case against a supermarket chain that used the basketball star’s name and image in a promotion without his permission.