American cookery legend Julia Child, played in the movie Julie and Julia by Meryl Streep, is at the centre of an advertising row in the US - eight years after her death .
In the month she would have celebrated her 100th birthday, a legal battle has erupted over Julia's beloved Thermador ovens. They were in her own kitchen(s) on the set of her hit television show, “The French Chef” and right now one is on display , along with the rest of her home kitchen, at the Smithsonian museum in Washington, to mark her centenary.
But the foundation that looks after Child’s legacy has gone to war with the oven’s manufacturer over a marketing campaign that features the supercook.
Since June, BSH Home Appliances, manufacturer of the upscale ovens selling for between $4000 and $8000, has been using her image and name in magazine advertisements, the company’s website, and on social media.
The Julia Child Foundation for Gastronomy and the Culinary Arts wants that advertising campaign to end - and is seeking cash as well, the Boston Globe reports.
“Thermador had been using Julia’s name and image as a means of endorsement in numerous marketing materials . . . in growing magnitude,” said Todd Schulkin, a spokesman for the foundation, in a statement.
“These actions . . . were clearly designed to directly link Julia with Thermador’s products in consumers’ minds with the explicit purpose of selling Thermador appliances.”
A photo of Child, smiling, which appeared prominently on the Thermador website, has been removed.
A company blog says that Child, “was one of Thermador’s original brand champions.”
The foundation contacted the kitchen company last month, demanding that it cease using her image and name in their marketing materials.
Child, the author of “Mastering the Art of French Cooking,” was personally opposed to endorsing products, brands or services,” said Schulkin.
“She believed it detracted from her credibility as a trusted source to her many fans and colleagues who relied on her for information, guidance, and inspiration.”
The oven manufacturer has now asked a court in Boston to allow the company to proceed with its marketing. The foundation has filed two countersuits in California.
They want to ban BSH Home Appliances from mentioning Child anywhere online or in print, and is asking for compensation “commensurate with the market value of such uses.”
Lawyers for BSH say the company’s right to use Child’s name is protected by the US First Amendment, protecting freedom of speech. The advertisements, they say, are simply stating a historical fact: Child used Thermador ovens for her cooking.
The foundation wants the case to be heard in California , where Julia retired. So-called "Post-mortem publicity laws"for celebrities seeking to protect their names are thought to have more traction there.
Present-day big names , such as Oprah Winfrey and Martha Stewart, have used their names as a multimillion-dollar brands.
“Throughout her life, and career, Julia Child had many opportunities for commercial advancement, ” their lawsuit says.
“She chose to forgo all such commercial opportunities.”