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Is Coffee Club's George Clooney Clone Ad Fair Use?

By Ephrat Livni, Esq. on January 25, 2016 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

George Clooney is at the center of a hot dispute between two coffee makers in Israel. Nespresso Israel is suing the Israeli Espresso Club for using a Clooney look-alike in ads. Nespresso's got the genuine article, the actor himself peddling its wares.

Nespresso sued the Espresso Club for its ads showing a Clooney clone learning the advantages of membership in the Club, a wink at the original Nespresso ad. The Coffee Club says its ads are a parody, and therefore fair use, and they do bear a disclaimer.

Playing Clooney on TV

In the top left-hand corner of the disputed advertisement appear the words "The actor is not George Clooney," written in Hebrew. The look-alike stands outside a shop with a bag in hand, presumably having bought a coffee machine.

He's wearing a navy blazer, silver-haired, and is being schooled by the youth. A casually dressed hipster explains that the Club provides free machines for members. In English, the Clooney clone replies, "That's crazy."

What Is Fair Use?

Is that fair use? In US law, there is an intellectual property carve-out for partial use of others' works in parody and reporting, among other exceptions to the general rule that people must pay to license others' copyrighted creations. This is called fair use and is the argument that the Israeli Espresso Club is relying on too.

Espresso Club says the tongue-in-cheek ad and the Clooney character are meant to target customers looking for a more "informal" coffee experience, reports The Telegraph. It seems that they are saying Nespresso is for old fogeys like Clooney but the cool kids are joining the Club.

Nespresso is not having it. The coffeemaker is demanding that the ads be yanked and that its rival pay $50,000 in damages. There was no word from Clooney on his feelings about the quality of his clone or the message that he's now old.

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