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Soccer Legend Pele Sues Samsung Over Improper Use of Image in Newspaper Ad

by The Associated Press /
Brazilian soccer legend Pele looks on during a news conference in Rio de Janeiro, in this file photo taken February 5, 2014.STRINGER / Reuters

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CHICAGO — Brazilian soccer legend Pele is suing Samsung in Chicago federal court, claiming the electronics company improperly used his identity in The New York Times.

The lawsuit was filed earlier this month by attorney Fred Sperling on behalf of Pele, 75, claiming Samsung used a Pele look-alike in an October advertisement for televisions. The ad's wording doesn't mention Pele, but claims the elderly black man pictured in it "very closely resembles" Pele with a white soccer player performing a "modified bicycle or scissors-kick, perfected and famously used by Pele."

 Brazilian soccer legend Pele looks on during a news conference in Rio de Janeiro, in this file photo taken February 5, 2014. STRINGER / Reuters

The lawsuit says the ad will confuse consumers and hurt the value of his endorsement rights. It seeks $30 million in damages. Pele has endorsement deals with other companies, including Volkswagen, Subway, Emirates and Procter and Gamble.

The lawsuit says the ad appeared after Samsung broke off negotiations to use Pele's image in 2013. Specifically, the lawsuit said Samsung pulled out of negotiations at the last minute "and never obtained the right to use Pele's identity in any manner or in any format."

Sperling is the same attorney who in August helped former Chicago Bulls star Michael Jordan win an $8.9 million jury verdict against the former supermarket chain Dominick's. In that case, Jordan said Dominick's improperly used his identity in a print ad.

"The goal is to obtain fair compensation for the unauthorized use of Pele's identity and to prevent future unauthorized uses," Sperling said.

Samsung spokeswoman Danielle Meister Cohen said in an email Tuesday that the company has no comment on the lawsuit.

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