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Apple legal threat to Steve Jobs doll deemed 'bogus'

'Personality rights' die when we do

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It appears that Apple's threatened lawsuit against the Chinese manufacturer of a Steve Jobs action figure may be baseless. At least in the US. At least in most states.

"Apple's legal claim is largely bogus," writes Jeff Roberts for the digital-content watchdog, paidContent.org.

The interwebs were abuzz on Thursday about The Telegraph's report that Apple had sent a letter to the doll-making firm, In Icons, which said in part that the company's use of late Apple cofounder's likeness was a "criminal offense".

Not so, says Roberts – and he presents a rather convincing case for the bogosity of Cupertino's claim that the company owns the rights to Jobs' likeness.

While we the living do, indeed, own the rights to our own likenessess, such rights may cease when we slough off this mortal coil. "Under American law," Roberts writes, "so-called 'personality rights' exist only at the state level – there is no federal law. And only about a dozen states recognize image rights after death."

Interestingly, one of those states is Jobs' birthplace of California, the most populous state in the US. The second most populus state, Texas, also has some protection for the personality rights of the dead, but the third most populous state, New York, provides no protection whatsover.

In addition, Apple may have no rights to Jobs' name either. As Roberts points out, Apple's own list of the 178 terms for which it enjoys trademark rights doesn't have its cofounder's name on it. ®

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