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Uhlaender v. Henricksen - 316 F. Supp. 1277 (D. Minn. 1970)

Rule:

The exclusive licensees of the right to exploit celebrities' names, likenesses or personalities have a proprietary interest, a "right of publicity," assignable in gross to the extent permitted under the original licensing agreements with the celebrities.

Facts:

A group of professional baseball players led by Theodore Otto Uhlaender (Uhlaender) contested the use of Nemadji Game Company, also known as Negamco, and its owners, Keith and Kent Henricksen,  of their names, sporting activities and accomplishments for commercial gain. Uhlaender sued Henricksen and Negamco for unauthorized appropriation and use of proprietary information for commercial profit and injunctive relief. Henricksen and Negamco sought to characterize Uhlaender’s action as one involving invasion of privacy rather than unauthorized appropriation. 

Issue:

Do Major League Baseball Players have a proprietary interest in their names, sporting activities and accomplishments?

Answer:

Yes

Conclusion:

The Court entered judgment in the players’ favor, reasoning celebrities had a legitimate proprietary interest in their public personalities. The Court determined the use of players' biographical data for the purpose of capitalizing upon their names by using them in connection with a commercial project other than the dissemination of news or articles or biographies violated the players’ property rights as an unauthorized appropriation. The Court further held that injunctive relief was appropriate since no adequate remedy at law existed.

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