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Nestle brews legal battle in Israel over Clooney clone

Food giant appeals court decision after losing coffee ad lawsuit against Espresso Club for use of Hollywood look-alike

George Clooney on his way to marry Amal Alamuddin, in Venice, Italy, Saturday, Sept. 27, 2014. (photo credit: AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
George Clooney on his way to marry Amal Alamuddin, in Venice, Italy, Saturday, Sept. 27, 2014. (photo credit: AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

Would the real George Clooney please stand up?

The “Gravity” and “Monuments Men” star is the focus of an Israeli lawsuit filed by food giant Nestle Corporation against Espresso Club, a small Israeli company whose ads spoof Nestle’s Nespresso coffee commercials.

Clooney stars in a line of Nespresso commercials which Espresso Club parodied with a Clooney look-alike. Nestle demanded NIS 200,000 ($50,000) and that Espresso Club remove the ad starring David Segal. After losing the case, Nestle on Wednesday appealed the Tel Aviv District Court’s ruling.

The real Clooney markets the Nespresso brand and his persona carries the company’s reputation, Nestle argued in a lawsuit filed at the Tel Aviv Magistrate Court two years ago. The court rejected the claim, and ruled that Nestle should pay Espresso Club NIS 58,500 ($14,700) in damages to cover the cost of the lawsuit.

A Swiss lawyer landed in Israel this week to represent the conglomerate and in the next few days will try to convince the court that Espresso Club’s ads are “misleading” consumers.

The Espresso Club ads had a disclaimer informing viewers that the actor wasn’t, in fact, George Clooney.

Espresso Club CEO Oren Tal was quoted by Israeli paper Yedioth Ahronoth saying Tuesday that he knew “the focus of the appeal will be on Clooney, who is also a member of the board of directors at Nespresso, and on how much money he was making as their presenter.”

Nestle’s legal counsel will “tell the court that the actor gets $40 million for the brand’s advertisements,” Tal said. “In any case, this is a flagship case for Nestle and so they will fight us to the end. I think the discussion on using doubles will reach all the way to the High Court, but their claims don’t make sense, so that’s why I think we’ll win. There is a whole genre in advertising of ads that relate to and make fun of their competitors.”

Tal told Channel 2 that the ad was clearly “a comic advertisement.”

In response, a spokesperson for Nespresso said the ad was not a form of fair competition.

“Nespresso invests a lot into building its brand and puts an emphasis on the quality of its product and professional customer service. Thus it’s natural that it would choose to protect its assets from attempts by others to ride on its reputation, and from attempts at imitation and misleading consumers,” a statement from the spokesperson read.

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