Jerusalem's Hebrew University has filed a lawsuit against the American automotive giant General Motors over a magazine advertisement containing a likeness of Albert Einstein, the Motor Trend website reported on Thursday.
The university owns Einstein's publicity rights, as willed by the late physicist following his death in 1955. The University argues that GM had not been cleared to legally use his image.
The four-page ad appeared in People magazine last fall, and included a photo of a shirtless model with Einstein's face, and a tattoo on his shoulder reading "E=MC2". On a separate page, the GMC Terrain was featured with the slogan "Ideas can be sexy too". The ad was created especially for People's "Sexiest Man Alive" issue.
"The tattooed, shirtless image of Dr. Einstein with his underpants on display is not consummate with and causes injury to [the university's] carefully guarded rights in the image and likeness of the famous scientist, political activist, and humanitarian," the website quoted Hebrew University lawyer Antoinette Waller as having written in the suit.
Forbes magazine ranked Einstein as the fourth most lucrative famous dead people in 2008, with profits of some $18 million a year.
According to Motor Trend, GM asserts that the company had legally purchased the right to use Einstein's likeness from what spokeswoman Ryndee Carney described as a "reputable firm," though she declined to name the firm.