When Cingular released its "Mach 1" and "Mach 2" wireless services, it sent out a press release that included the following language:
"Nearly 60 years ago, the legendary test pilot Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier and achieved Mach 1. Today, Cingular is breaking another kind of barrier with our MACH 1 and MACH 2 mobile command centers, which will enable us to respond rapidly to hurricanes and minimize their impact on our customers."
Yeager sued for violation of the federal Lanham Act and his common law rights of publicity. Cingular moved for summary judgment on the grounds that their reference to Yeager's flight was protected by the First Amendment, and -- unbelievably -- last week District Judge Frank Damrell denied the motion and held that Yeager's claims can proceed to trial. [Rebecca Tushnet has blogged here about the case] It's a sad commentary on what the First Amendment means these days -- where in heaven's name is Justice Black when we need him?? As Prof Tushnet put it: "This is why the current right of publicity is a terrible, terrible thing. If some people think Yeager is somehow associated with Cingular because of this press release making a single textual comparison with a historical event, that's because trademark owners have convinced people that ridiculous ownership claims must be okay."