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Solar Therapeutics Hit with Lawsuit Over Borat Billboard

— July 13, 2021

Sacha Baron Cohen is suing Solar Therapeutics over allegations of copyright infringement and false advertising.

Cannabis companies seem to be popping up all over the place. However, one brand went a bit too far when trying to market its products when it decided to use Sacha Baron Cohen’s Borat character in their marketing plan. Now, the actor is suing the company, Solar Therapeutics, over claims of “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!’”

Copyright symbol; graphic by David Wees, via Flickr, CC BY 2.0, no changes.
Copyright symbol; graphic by David Wees, via Flickr, CC BY 2.0, no changes.

In the complaint, attorney David Condon wrote:

“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…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.”

Baron Cohen also noted that he has “never taken any corporate brand deal despite receiving countless opportunities because he thinks it would undermine his credibility as an actor and social activist.” He added that Solar Therapeutics decided to use his image because it thought the ad would boost sales. He said the company “took a gamble that he wouldn’t find out about it… But, he did take notice and he isn’t happy.” The complaint added that “not only is he highly protective of his image, he also doesn’t believe cannabis use is a healthy choice.”

The complaint further states:

“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…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.”

It’s important to note that cannabis is still federally illegal, even though many states have either legalized it or are working on legalizing it. Soon after Baron Cohen discovered the billboard, his lawyer sent a cease-and-desist letter to Solar Therapeutics and the company took the billboard down. However, it “declined to compensate Cohen for the unauthorized use of his image and that of his famous alter ego.

As part of the suit, Baron Cohen is seeking “trebled statutory damages in addition to actual and punitive damages and disgorgement of profits attributable to the billboard.”


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