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CalAttorney2, Attorney
Category: Intellectual Property Law
Satisfied Customers: 10244
Experience:  Civil litigation attorney for individuals and businesses.
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There is a new Chinese food product (dim sum) now being sold

Customer Question

There is a new Chinese food product (dim sum) now being sold at Costco. It bears the name of CAI E, my grandfather, (exactly), who happens to be a historically famous and popular general in the Xing Hai revolution that ended imperial rule in China about 100 years ago. Is it proper to use his name in such a commercial enterprise, assuming without permission?
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Intellectual Property Law
Expert:  CalAttorney2 replied 2 years ago.
It depends, the threshold for these claims is actually right at 100 years (measured at the person's death). This is why you see past presidents (images of Washington and Lincoln) selling cars around President's day or the 4th of July, or other famous individuals from the past.However, more recent famous figures are protected (for example Martin Luther King Jr. and Chuck Yeager are two good examples of individuals who have been extremely aggressive in litigating their "right of personality" trademark, or defamation claims).So again, your grandfather's name, likeness, or image, may properly be used in the public domain if he has been deceased for over 100 years. However, if it has been less than 100 years, his heirs (including you) may have a right to pursue them for money damages (or at least injunctive relief - a court order forcing them to stop the production). But I would caution you to hire legal counsel prior to engaging in this course of action - this type of law is still somewhat unsettled and when dealing with a removed relative you are going to have a lot of various interests that you are going to have to deal with (other grandchildren, children, or even great grand children, as well as the potential defendants) when working out a settlement - or even litigating the matter.