Actor and writer Sacha Baron Cohen has taken legal action against Solar Therapeutics, claiming the company damaged his reputation by using the image of his creation, Borat, to advertise cannabis.
Previously, in April 2021, his attorneys had filed a cease-and-desist order to Solar Therapeutics after it put up a highway billboard depicting Borat, along with his catchphrase, “It’s nice!”. It was subsequently taken down.
Baron Cohen’s likeness was used without permission, which is what spawned the subsequent motion to sue on July 13.
The lawsuit said: “Mr. Baron Cohen never has used cannabis in his life. He never would participate in an advertising campaign for cannabis, for any amount of money.”
To cover the damages, Baron Cohen’s company, Please You Can Touch LLC, is seeking $9 million (£6.5m).
The complaint continued: “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.”
Nicholas Hemond, a lawyer working for Solar Therapeutics, stated: “Upon receipt of the cease-and-desist letter from Mr. Cohen’s legal counsel, Solar immediately requested that the sign company remove the billboard in question.”
The billboard was up for three days after the complaint was filed, yet the suit stated that it reached hundreds of thousands of people per day for several weeks.
It also said: “Mr. Baron Cohen is highly protective of his image and persona, and those of his characters. Mr. Baron Cohen is very careful with the manner in which he uses his persona and his characters to interact with his fans and the general public.”
The matter was reported by The Associated Press, which referred to documents filed in Boston’s US District Court.
These documents also take note of Baron Cohen’s Jewish heritage, and how that played into the lawsuit.
The complaint said: “He is proud of his cultural heritage. He does not wish to be involved in the heated controversy among the Orthodox Jewish community about whether cannabis can be used under Jewish traditions, customs and rules.”
Borat is the titular character of two of Baron Cohen’s comedy films. The mockumentary-style movies follow a Kazakhstani journalist as he journeys through the United States and captures unscripted interactions with ‘real people’.
Solar Therapeutics is a cannabis dispensary based in Somerset, Massachusetts. They aim to provide cannabis-based therapy products in an environmentally sustainable way.