Kareem Abdul-Jabbar v. General Motors Corporation; Leo Burnett Company, Inc.: An Analysis of the Issues
This paper will discuss the legal issues in the case, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar v. General Motors Corporation; Leo Burnett Company, Inc. The first part of the paper will briefly recount the facts in the case. The second part will look at the issues under Section 43 of the Lanham Act pertaining to "the use of any symbol or device which is likely to deceive consumers as to the association, sponsorship, or approval of goods or services by another person." The third part of the paper will discuss the issues under California's statutory and common law right of publicity.
During the 1993 NCAA men's basketball tournament, General Motors aired a television commercial in which a disembodied voice asked, "How 'bout some trivia?" The question was followed by the appearance of a screen bearing the printed words, "You're talking to the Champ." The voice then asked, "Who holds the record for being voted the most outstanding player of this tournament?" In the screen appeared the printed words, "Lew Alcindor, UCLA, '67, '68, '69." The voice then asked, "Has any car made the 'Consumer Digest's Best Buy' list more than once? [and responds:] The Oldsmobile Eighty-Eight has." Then followed a seven-second film clip of the car, with its price. During this clip, the voice said, "In fact, it's made that list three years in a row. And now you can get this Eighty-Eight special edition for just $18,995." At the end of the clip, the following printed words appeared on the screen: "A Definite First Round Pick," while the voice stated, "It's your money."
General Motors did not obtain Jabbar's consent to use his former name, which he stopped legally using in 1971, and it did not pay him for this use. The company did withdraw the advertisement when he complained about it. Jabbar then brought suit in the district court alleging violations of th...