Julia Child’s foundation, Irvine appliance maker scuffle over use of her image

| Aug 29, 2012 | Intellectual Property Litigation

Throughout her distinguished culinary career, Julia Child never endorsed anything.

Her decision never to lend her personal endorsement in exchange for money seems rare today, given that we live in an era when Sacramento residents can’t walk through a store without seeing Rachael Ray, Giada de Laurentiis and the like all over everything from high-end cookware to pasta sauce. But Child held firm in her belief that endorsing any product would undermine her credibility. She wanted to be seen as “a teacher of cookery,” not as a paid pitchwoman.

So why, then, is Irvine-based appliance brand Thermador running advertisements featuring images of Child and her Thermador oven on the set of “The French Chef”?

That’s what her family would like to know. They argue that Thermador never sought permission from the Julia Foundation for Gastronomy and the Culinary Arts in Santa Barbara, the nonprofit to which child left her intellectual property assets.

The foundation found out about the Thermador ad campaign in July and demanded that its advertising agency stop running the offending ads. It complied, but when the foundation denied Thermador’s subsequent request to acquire the rights to Child’s image, Thermador’s parent company sued, seeking legal permission to use the images. Its claim is that Child did indeed have a Thermador oven on the set of “The French Chef” (which she did) and that running a still image of a publicly broadcast TV show “does not state or imply any endorsement.”

Does that argument make any sense to you? If you saw such an ad (before reading this post), would you think Child was endorsing Thermador ovens?

Source: The Los Angeles Times, “Julia Child’s family outraged over Thermador ads featuring chef,” Harriet Ryan and Russ Parsons, Aug. 28, 2012