Julia Child Foundation, Oven-Maker In Legal Battle
A foundation set up by Julia Child is locked in a legal battle with the manufacturer of Thermador ovens over a marketing campaign that celebrates the late chef's use of the company's high-end appliances.
The Julia Child Foundation for Gastronomy and the Culinary Arts claims BSH Home Appliances Corp. is using Child's name and image without permission. The Irvine, Calif.-based manufacturer says it is simply making a factual reference to Child's use of its appliances.
BSH has filed a lawsuit in Boston against the foundation, asking a federal judge to determine the rights of both sides.
Child had a Thermador oven in her Cambridge kitchen, which is now displayed at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in Washington. Child, who died in 2004, also used Thermador products on the set of her popular television show, "The French Chef."
In its complaint, BSH said the foundation sent the company a letter last month in which it said it has exclusive ownership and control of Child's name, image, likeness and celebrity identity, as well as trademarks and copyrights related her. BSH said the foundation alleged that BSH's use of Child's name and image constitutes copyright infringement, trademark infringement and "a post-mortem violation of Julia Child's right of publicity."
The foundation demanded that BSH stop using the name, image and "all other indicia of Julia Child's personality," according to the complaint filed by BSH.
BSH acknowledges that it has used images of Child and references to her use of Thermador products on its website and on social media sites, but its attorneys wrote in the complaint that "those uses do not state or imply any endorsement by Ms. Child."
The company said its references to Child "reflect on the long history, significance and influence of Thermador products on American society and culture, and Ms. Child's documented and well-known use of those products."
A Boston-based lawyer for BSH declined comment. The administrator of the foundation could not immediately be reached Wednesday.