Nespresso rival can use Clooney lookalike in commercials, court rules

Israeli Supreme Court upholds right of rival coffee company to use George Clooney-lookalike in commercials

August 13, 2019 02:59
2 minute read.
An Instagram screenshot of Nespresso's commercial

An Instagram screenshot of Nespresso's commercial. (photo credit: INSTAGRAM)

Satirists can breathe a sigh of relief following the Supreme Court’s dismissal on August 7 of an appeal by Nespresso against Espresso Club.

Nespresso alleged that Espresso Club, a Bnei Brak-based company that also makes coffee machines and capsules, infringed on its copyright by broadcasting ads that feature a George Clooney look-alike – Clooney is Nespresso’s “global brand ambassador” – and spoof the Nespresso ads.

The appeal was filed to challenge a previous ruling by Tel Aviv District Court Judge Magen Altuvia in 2017, who said that, “The use made by Espresso Club in its advertisements of an image of Clooney is legitimate and sophisticated and does not involve any violation of Nespresso copyright.” Last week’s Supreme Court decision upheld this ruling.

The Espresso Club ad shows a Clooney look-alike in a fancy suit, smiling at a beautiful woman and slowly walking out of a store, carrying a shopping bag and saying to himself (in a voice similar to the Oscar-winning actor’s), “There’s nothing like a new espresso machine.”

His reverie is interrupted by a schlumpy Israeli guy who snaps his fingers in the look-alike’s face, saying in Hebrew, “Hey, stop talking to yourself. You’re being towed.”

The confused Clooney protests in English, “But I left my car with the valet.” Half in Hebrew, half in English, the Israeli guy tells him he left his car with the traffic police officer, not a valet.

“Too bad,” says the Israeli, as the tow truck speeds away carrying the Clooney character’s car, and explains that with Espresso Club, he could have gotten the machine delivered right to his house and that it would have been free.

Amazed by this, the Clooney double says he didn’t hear that and the Israeli chides him: “How would you hear it if all day, you’re just smiling at women and talking to yourself?” The Clooney double says that this sounds crazy, while the Israeli tells him, again in Hebrew, “And to dress like a groom to go to a coffee store — that’s not ‘crazy’ at all?”

If that’s not enough to tip viewers off that it isn’t the real George Clooney, full-screen titles at the beginning and end explain that this isn’t actual Clooney and a title appears next to the faux Clooney’s head at all times he is on screen, pointing out he is not really George.

In the Nespresso ads, the actual Clooney pokes fun at himself, thinking everyone admires him because he is so famous and handsome, when it turns out that they simply approve of his wonderful choice of coffee brands.

In the Supreme Court ruling, the judges pointed out that the recognition of criticism and parody as “fair use” in creative endeavors grants individual users freedom to poke fun in many ways.

While the court’s ruling may leave a bitter taste in Nespresso’s mouth, consumers of coffee and commercials will surely celebrate the decision.

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