SAN JOSE, Calif. (CN) – While Bulova may have designed the watch astronaut Col. David Randolph Scott wore during the Apollo 15 moon landing, advertisements for a 2014 replica using Scott’s image may come too close to what a federal judge on Wednesday called “the black hole of misappropriation.”
Scott, the seventh man to walk on the moon and the first to drive on it, sued Bulova and Sterling Jewelers, formerly known as Kay Jewelers, in February 2017, saying the companies collaborated to use his persona on a timepiece commemorating the mission.
The watch, which Bulova dubbed the “Special Edition Moon Chronograph,” was designed to replicate the ones worn by Scott and the other astronauts on the Apollo 15 mission to the moon in 1971.
In addition to descriptions of the watch that reference Scott, Bulova’s website also features photos of Scott and a 79-second video of the Apollo 15 mission that includes two seconds of Scott saying “we have a roll program.”
Mostly denying the jewelers’ motion for summary judgment, U.S. District Judge Nathanael Cousins said Scott may have a case that they ripped off his image and likeness.
“While Bulova may legally showcase its legitimate connection to Apollo 15, the court cannot say as a matter of law that defendants’ advertisements do not cross the event horizon into the black hole of misappropriation,” he wrote in a ruling that showcased a predilection for space puns.
Cousins found that as the official watchmaker for the mission, Bulova has greater license to boast about its link to it. “But whatever connection the original chronograph created between Bulova and Apollo 15 does not automatically make Scott fair game,” he concluded.
A jury will have to decide whether the companies improperly used Scott’s image and likeness, and whether the ads imply Scott endorses the timepiece. For now, the fact that at least some consumers thought so is enough to survive summary judgment.
Cousins also left intact Scott’s claim that Bulova owed him a duty to protect his interests, writing, “While the court remains perplexed why Scott insists on pursuing a claim that adds nothing to the case, this supernovic white dwarf star of a claim burns on.”
But he was less generous on the emotional distress claims, finding a solitary declaration from Scott on his embarrassment at being associated with hawking watches insufficient.
“Even viewed in the light most favorable to Scott, this evidence is a parsec away from describing distress that no reasonable person can be expected to endure,” Cousins wrote.
Attorneys for both sides did not respond to emails seeking comment.