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Goooooood coffee.
February 2, 2005 1:21 PM   Subscribe

He was the Taster's Choice model for 16 years and he never even knew it. A jury awards $15.6 million to a man whose face was used on the Taster's Choice coffee jar without his permission.
posted by braun_richard (36 comments total)

 
I'd like to see what Nestle does to the employee who picked the photo. "If you cost the company $15 million... they dock ya!"
posted by sninky-chan at 1:27 PM on February 2, 2005


That's an expensive mug.
posted by fenriq at 1:29 PM on February 2, 2005


How could he have gone 15 years without a friend or family member pointing it out to him?
posted by mudpuppie at 1:31 PM on February 2, 2005


It's kind of a stylized shot. I could see it just reminding people of him without them thinking it actually was him.

I love that he's a bit of a coffee snob.
posted by chicobangs at 1:32 PM on February 2, 2005


I do beans. Hahah.
posted by rooftop secrets at 1:37 PM on February 2, 2005


mudpuppie: because they only started using it on packaging in the USA in the late 90s.

Me being a 28 year old Canuck on the other hand, I've seen his likeness on the package for a good part of my life.
posted by furtive at 1:46 PM on February 2, 2005


I saw this guy on television last night. He said that a woman came up to him a few years ago at a Home Depot and told him he looked just like the guy on her jar of coffee, but he thought nothing of it and never attempted to check it out. Considering that he'd done a bunch of modeling shots holding a coffee cup, and drinking from a coffee cup, it's hard to believe that he didn't even ask her what brand, or try to follow up on it.
posted by iconomy at 1:57 PM on February 2, 2005


I don't think it is his face. I think it's just a combination of the Nestle corporate logo...and...uh...the Folger's logo. Yeah.
Just like Mr. Sparkle.
posted by graventy at 2:04 PM on February 2, 2005


MeTa
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 2:08 PM on February 2, 2005


It doesn't exactly take a coffee snob to avoid Tasters Choice.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 2:30 PM on February 2, 2005


I find it entirely plausible that he didn't find out for so long. If it took that long for the picture to show up on US packaging, by that point I doubt that the fact he had done those shots (that never went anywhere) was on the top of his mind.

Also, what chicobangs said. That many years later people who saw it wouldn't really have much of a reason to think it was him. It certainly might remind them of him, but it ACTUALLY being a picture of him from many years ago was a possibility that likely was dismissed.

Of course there was the chance that he could have found out sooner, it just didn't happen to work out that way.
posted by Stunt at 2:38 PM on February 2, 2005


I wonder if the settlement means they now have permission and can continue to use his likeness. Would they want to after he's said things like that?
posted by raedyn at 2:43 PM on February 2, 2005


Is "we thought it was cleared" really a defense?
posted by The God Complex at 2:44 PM on February 2, 2005


mmmmm tasty,
that is a hell of a ad campaign.
posted by nola at 2:51 PM on February 2, 2005


I really don't understand why the payment was so big. $15 million dollars?


How much emotional distress does one get from being on a coffee label? Does he constantly get people swishing around starbucks cups saying... "duz thas taist ene gud?" scalding him with hot coffee in the process? Unless some caffiene hyped psychopath started obsessing over this guy and sought out to stalk and kill his familiy one by one until on a stormy night, coffee label man is cowering in the dark of the basement screaming into his hands "WHY??? WHY NESTLE??? WHY DID YOU CHOOSE ME?? OH THE SUBTLY PLAYFUL AROMA WITH BOLD BITTERSWEET AFTERTONES TASTE OF IT ALL... WHY!!!".

Then maybe, just maybe I might understand a $15 million dollar payout.
posted by JGreyNemo at 3:21 PM on February 2, 2005


jgrey, the suit was for misappropriation of the plaintiff's rights of publicity, not emotional distress. This guy had thought that the company had rejected his test shoot, went on his merry way, and then realized that they had used his image for 16 years without compensating him.

The fact that the image didn't show up on US packaging for many years did in Taster's Choice in the end. Otherwise, the lawsuit would have had laches written all over it.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 3:29 PM on February 2, 2005


Wow. I grew up with that guy, and he didn't even know it.
posted by DrJohnEvans at 3:32 PM on February 2, 2005


Thanks for the Clarification Saucy. I wonder how much he would have been paid by Nestle if the image was above the table.

I wish I had a stock photo face. The only jobs where my looks were important was when I was working for free. I'm not quite sure if that's telling... but it probably is.
posted by JGreyNemo at 3:52 PM on February 2, 2005


I wonder how much he would have been paid by Nestle if the image was above the table.

If he was an inexperienced model or had a crappy or non-existent agent, probably very little. This is why movie studios and other commercial enterprises go out of their way to track down and get releases from people whose images appear in their products.

The Nestle case is egregious only because they used his image for years without bothering to find out if it was appropriately licensed. This is why companies have internal audit departments.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 4:21 PM on February 2, 2005


This coming on the day I refused to sign for a new job a waiver so they could use my "likeness, voice or photo" for press or anything else. My card carrying AFTRA and SAG friend is proud of me.
posted by 6:1 at 4:40 PM on February 2, 2005


The show I was watching last night said that he would have made 2,000 dollars if he had been paid by Taster's Choice to use his likeness, for whoever asked.
posted by iconomy at 5:09 PM on February 2, 2005


I realize Nestle is a large evil corporation, but get serious. Any of you every worked for a large corporation? Can any doubt that this wasn't an honest screw up? Can we doubt that he would have been thrilled with the extra 2K way back when? Should he not have been thrilled with the offered six figure settlement? Pushing the thing for more was pathetic.

I look forward to the appeal and immediate reduction. I look forward to a snarky judge laying into him and his lawyer, but that only in my dreams.

Mind you, I would have been fascinated to listen to the jurors deliberation.
posted by IndigoJones at 5:54 PM on February 2, 2005


Nestle is a big corporation, and must have pretty large advertising and graphics art departments. Any ad campaign or box graphic that was used for 16 years must be highly successful, came under periodic scrutiny, and been reviewed and analyzed. At some point, someone had to have traced the origin of this graphic; not only internal auditing, but also because they would have almost certainly considered using him to advertise the product. Over that long of a time, someone would have figured out that either they never paid him or they couldn't trace it at all, and either way they had a big problem.

For Nestle to have screwed it up so badly and so long, they were either intentionally trying to screw him or ridiculously incompetant, and either way, the payout was deserved. I'm pretty sure the judge is trying to tell them "What the hell were you guys THINKING?"
posted by Mitrovarr at 7:01 PM on February 2, 2005


"Pushing the thing for more was pathetic."

Pathetic? He's a millionaire. Nestle deserves the bitch slap for refusing to negotiate. He came down millions, they went up thousands. That obviously was a bad move on their part.
posted by UseyurBrain at 7:36 PM on February 2, 2005


What I want to know is when, precisely did instant coffee cease being legitimate, and why? Some time in the 1980's? Early 90's? This moment predated Starbucks. This fascinates me.

PS: For some reason, I used to love the Taster's Choice TV commericals with the combination lock, the deep voice guy, and the image of that guy on the jar.
posted by ParisParamus at 8:25 PM on February 2, 2005


"we thought it was cleared" is clearly not a defense, but really only an admission of crap record keeping. Still, he's just a crummy mug, he's not the new Guess girl. I think the jury just feels like it's "sticking it to the man" (bitch slap). Great, I hope he keeps teaching, and buys the school a new building or two.
posted by Jack Karaoke at 12:27 AM on February 3, 2005


What I want to know is when, precisely did instant coffee cease being legitimate, and why?

In Korea, for what it's worth, 'coffee' is almost universally understood to be small premixed powder packets of instant coffee, creamer and sugar. It is the (ok, 'a') bane of my existence.

At almost any restaurant you care to go to, it is literally impossible to get a cup of brewed coffee, and even at most cafes that claim to offer real ('wandu') coffee, what you do get is horrid.

Data point.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 2:01 AM on February 3, 2005


The real sad part of it is that our "jury of peers" consistently awards ridiculous amounts in lame cases such as this, in the probable hope that they will be the next to make it big without getting their fat ass off the couch. Possibly related to the delusion of the heartland sharecroppers that they will be invited to the country club for voting republican.
posted by phoffmann at 5:49 AM on February 3, 2005


The real sad part of it is that our "jury of peers" consistently awards ridiculous amounts in lame cases such as this, in the probable hope that they will be the next to make it big without getting their fat ass off the couch.

Maybe Nestle should have thought about that before trying to screw somebody out of the money they deserved for services rendered. Mitrovarr's comments are right; somebody in that company knew that the likeness wasn't cleared, and went ahead with it anyway.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 5:57 AM on February 3, 2005


But 15 million dollars? That's a bit too "punitive", don't you think? It's not like he went for surgery on his arm and got his leg amputated.
posted by madman at 7:59 AM on February 3, 2005


But 15 million dollars? That's a bit too "punitive", don't you think?

Go back and read the posts - it's been clarified that the award was not punitive in nature.
posted by jperkins at 8:06 AM on February 3, 2005


A heartwarming stock photo story is at ever-amazing cockeyed.com...

also, my coworker once told me that if you put milk in your coffee before you put in your sugar, the sugar won't dissolve as well (there's a molecular explanation, but i don't know it)
posted by armacy at 8:59 AM on February 3, 2005


If only meta could link to the today show, we could have discussed this yesterday!
posted by guruguy9 at 9:29 AM on February 3, 2005


"Nestle is a big corporation, and must have pretty large advertising and graphics art departments. Any ad campaign or box graphic that was used for 16 years must be highly successful, came under periodic scrutiny, and been reviewed and analyzed."

I work in the creative department of a fortune 100 company. We service some 1000 subsidiaries globally. Since the matriculation of computers into the graphics industry, two noticeable things have happened: It now takes a much smaller staff to manage some of these huge accounts and virtually every record prior to the advent of computers is gone.....'poof' (or that's what they keep telling us). It doesn't excuse Nestle' from screwing this guy but I can definitely see how the situation could drag on for a time with no one noticing. And frankly, it's the relative success of the campaign that allowed this to fester. We rarely scrutinize successful marketing - seriously. We might talk about why it worked and how it can be applied to other branding/products but it's rare someone checks on the legal aspects of it when it's gone on this long. Again, not excusing them, they deserve the heavy hand-slap but I can see how it could happen.
posted by j.p. Hung at 10:34 AM on February 3, 2005


somebody in that company knew that the likeness wasn't cleared, and went ahead with it anyway.

Have you ever worked for a big corporation? Nobody knows anything in places like that. A person hires the guy, another checks for the release, he moves to another department, a new guy from outside doesn't get the system for a few weeks and already has way more than he can handle, files get lost in the move to the new building....

Not convinced about the heavy hand-slap either. His demand was absurd, an standard opening gambit, and it would have been irresponsible to the shareholders for the Nestle lawyers to cave. I mean to say, what do you think this guy would he have gotten had the wheels moved smoothly? Certainly less than a hundred thousand and I don't doubt he would have been glad to get it. This is instant coffee, folks, it's not like he's the face of L'Oreal. Or even Breck shampoo.

On a related topic- punitive damages. I understand that the point is to discourage wrong doers from doing wrong again. Well and good, a civic plus. What I do not understand is why those monies should go to an individual plaintiff. If law is intended to make the injured whole and perhaps cover a little bit of pain and suffering (in this vale of tears, I would probably cap that at, say, a quarter mil, but let's leave that argument aside for now), then he's already covered. Surely the punitive chunk, aiming at deterence, a common good, rather than individual retribution, a private good, should go into the commonwealth's kitty? (You can argue the plaintiff is by way of a proxy agent of the state, but I don't buy it. If it's the principle of the thing, and not the money, then any plaintiff should be proud to pass on the fine to his fellow citizenry. It is is the money, then the guy is hound and hsould be run out of town on a rail)

And who set it up that indiviual plaintiffs should benefit this way? A far sighted lawmaker or lawyer, cleaerly, but who exactly and when? Do other countries do it likewise?

I've never been able to get an answer from a lawyer (or even a law professor), but I would love to know.
posted by IndigoJones at 3:38 PM on February 3, 2005


Not convinced about the heavy hand-slap either. His demand was absurd, an standard opening gambit, and it would have been irresponsible to the shareholders for the Nestle lawyers to cave. I mean to say, what do you think this guy would he have gotten had the wheels moved smoothly? Certainly less than a hundred thousand and I don't doubt he would have been glad to get it. This is instant coffee, folks, it's not like he's the face of L'Oreal. Or even Breck shampoo.

OK, but the decision was valid. As you put it, "opening gambit." Once someone is in such a position legally, knowing they'll win a case, it's like a game of poker. Sometimes the losing side will negotiate, many times to avoid publicity. Nestle was foolish to not negotiate a settlement in this case. He asked for $8.5 million - I bet he would have gone for $5 million, maybe less. They would have paid far less in the end, including in legal costs, they wouldn't have been found at fault legally, and they probably would have avoided all the newspaper ink. Going to court got them the wrath of the jury as well as unwanted press.
posted by krinklyfig at 6:45 PM on February 13, 2005


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