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Buzz Aldrin sues Topps for using his likeness on trading cards

The retired astronaut, the second person to set foot on the moon, contends that the company unjustly profited from his historic achievement by including a photograph of the Apollo 11 mission in a series of trading cards.

December 29, 2010|By Stuart Pfeifer, Los Angeles Times

Buzz Aldrin was the second person to set foot on the moon; now he's the first to sue Topps Inc. for putting a photograph of the historic moment on its "American Heroes" series of trading cards.

The 80-year-old retired astronaut sued Topps on Monday in federal court in Los Angeles, contending that the company had unjustly profited from his historic achievement by including a photograph of the Apollo 11 mission in a series of trading cards.

A worldwide television audience estimated at more than 500 million people watched on July 20, 1969, as Aldrin and astronaut Neil Armstrong walked the moon.

In the years that followed, Aldrin has carefully protected his intellectual property rights, and controlled "how his image and likeness in that photograph may be used with respect to commercial products," his attorney, Robert C. O'Brien, said in a letter to Topps.

Aldrin's lawyers warned Topps that they had helped him obtain more than $760,000 in legal settlements from companies that have used his likeness without his permission on books, software packaging and trading cards.

Topps' attorney, Michael Kahn, said the company had a 1st Amendment right "to include a factual description of the historic events in which Dr. Aldrin participated."

"Topps included Dr. Aldrin within the 'American Heroes' edition because it believes he is an American hero and is thus proud to be able to share such information with its audience," Kahn said in an April 15 letter to the law firm representing Aldrin.

Aldrin's attorneys were unable to negotiate a licensing fee with Topps, prompting the retired astronaut to take the matter to court. The lawsuit seeks unspecified monetary damages and a court order prohibiting Topps from marketing the trading cards.

stuart.pfeifer@latimes.com

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