Borat actor Sacha Baron Cohen is taking legal action in the US against a cannabis company that used the character’s likeness on a billboard, suing them for at least US$9 million in damages.
The lawsuit was filed on Monday, with Cohen suing Solar Therapeutics for copyright infringement, false advertising and misappropriation of his right of publicity.
The billboard, on a busy interstate highway in Massachusetts, was used to advertise Solar Therapeutics cannabis product and featured a portrait of Cohen as his Borat character giving a thumbs up and exclaiming ‘It’s Nice!’
Attorney David Condon wrote in the complaint “to the contrary, Mr Baron Cohen never has used cannabis in his life”.
He added: “By use of the billboard, the defendants falsely have conveyed to the public that Mr Baron Cohen has endorsed their products and is affiliated with their business.
“He never would participate in an advertising campaign for cannabis, for any amount of money.”
Cohen’s legal team said Solar Therapeutics “took a gamble” in using the image, assuming Cohen would never see the billboard.
The suit added: “Mr Baron Cohen has turned down countless opportunities to licence his name and/or likeness for other commercial advertising in the US. He believes such advertising would weaken his credibility as an actor and as a serious social activist.
“Mr Baron Cohen and his company [Please You Can Touch] never have allowed their Borat character to be used for advertising or marketing of any product or service anywhere, other than television series or films involving Borat.”
The suit stated that Cohen is “highly protective” of his image.