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Olympic Athletes Spitz, Louganis Sue Samsung Over 'Genome' Facebook App

By Andrew Chow, Esq. | Last updated on

With the Summer Olympics just three months away, some legendary Olympic athletes are suing Samsung over an Olympics-related Facebook app.

Samsung's "Olympic Genome Project" app allows Facebook users to see how they may be connected to, and what they have in common with, famous Olympic athletes, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

The app cross-references a Facebook user's profile information with a database of about 3,000 Olympic athletes. But Samsung never got permission to use the athletes' names and images, the lawsuit by 18 famous Olympians states.

The athletes suing over Samsung's Olympic Facebook app include Mark Spitz, Greg Louganis, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Janet Evans, Jason Lezak, Amanda Beard, and Dara Torres, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

The athletes claim Samsung violated a California law that prohibits the use of another person's name, photograph, or likeness for commercial purposes without consent. The law is sometimes referred to as California's "right of publicity" statute.

The Samsung app prominently displays advertising for Samsung's products next to the Olympians' names and images, "to create the impression that Plaintiffs endorse Defendants' products and business," the lawsuit states.

According to the law, the key is whether the use of the person's name or image "was so directly connected with the commercial sponsorship" that it becomes commercial use that requires consent.

In a statement, Samsung insisted the company adhered to U.S. Olympic Committee policies in creating its app. Athletes had a chance to express their opinions about the app and could have opted out, Samsung said, according to Bloomberg.

If the Samsung Olympic Facebook app lawsuit proceeds and Samsung is deemed liable, the company will likely have to give up any profits derived from its Facebook app. The company would also have to cover the Olympians' legal fees, according to the law.

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