Well, Is He or Isn't He?

The U.S.District Court, Central District of California, has dismissed a libel suit against Apple Computer brought by astronomer Carl Sagan.

Apple had a product with the code name Carl Sagan. Once the prominent astronomer learned of the unsanctioned use of his name by Apple, he made a legal request they quit doing so. Then, according to the court's opinion, Apple then started calling the product "butt-head astronomer."

In dismissing the suit, Judge J. Baird writes:

"Plantiff's libel action is based on the allegation that Defendant changed the 'code name' on its personal computer from 'Carl Sagan' to 'Butt-Head Astronomer' after plaintiff had request that Defendant cease use of Plaintiff's name. There can be no question that the use of the figurative term 'Butt-Head' negates the impression that Defendant was seriously implying an assertion of fact. It strains reason to conclude that Defendant was attempting to criticize Plaintiff's reputation or competency as an astronomer. One does not seriously attack the expertise of a scientist using the undefined phrase 'butt-head.' Thus, the figurative language militates against implying an assertion of fact.

Furthermore, the tenor of any communication of the information, especially the phrase 'Butt-Head Astronomer,' would negate the impression that Defendant was implying an assertion of fact."


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