SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – Chuck Yeager says Virgin America used his name without permission in a mass mailer advertising its in-flight WiFi service. Yeager, 86, the first pilot to break the sound barrier, seeks punitive damages for unjust enrichment and violation of his publicity rights.
In his Superior Court complaint, Yeager cites a Virgin press release that he says was “widely distributed … to several thousand people – if not hundreds of thousands of people.” It states, in part: “Not unlike Buzz Aldrin or Chuck Yeager, you have the opportunity to be a part of a monumental moment in air travel. The communication highway now has wings with in-flight WiFi at every seat …”
Yeager, a retired general, says he “rarely, if ever, permits his name, image or other publicity rights to be used by private companies, or to associate with commercial products or services in the aviation industry, because that is the industry in which General Yeager has spent his entire 65-year career and has achieved so many accomplishments. Should a private company in that industry request the widespread commercial use of General Yeager’s name or other publicity rights, General Yeager would carefully evaluate the company, product and/or service to be advertised, and if he were to agree to permit the requested use, he would require a payment commensurate with the value of his publicity rights in that industry – a substantial sum.”
Yeager is represented by Charles Harder with Wolf, Rifkin, Shapiro of Los Angeles.
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