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Pasadena’s Ninth Circuit Rules Against Yeager’s Estate

Published on Wednesday, April 20, 2022 | 12:36 pm

Pasadena’s Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the estate of Chuck Yeager, a famous U.S. airman, in a lawsuit against Airbus.

The estate of the air force pilot who broke the sound barrier accused the aerospace company of using Yeager’s name and likeness without permission to promote its A380 plane and high-speed Racer helicopter.

Yeager died in 2020. Yeager sued Airbus SE in 2019 for trademark infringement and violating his right of publicity after he objected to a sales video shown to employees that contained footage from his 2008 visit to Airbus facilities in Europe.

But according to the ninth circuit a lower court judge properly dismissed the case because she lacked jurisdiction, reflecting how neither the video nor the press statement was aimed at California, where Yeager filed the lawsuit.

Yeager also took issue with an Airbus promotional statement on its website touting the helicopter’s efficiency, which said: “Seventy years ago, Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier. We’re trying to break the cost barrier.”

In a 3-0 decision, the panel said Yeager did not allege that anyone in California saw the video, and California’s large aerospace industry “does not establish that a website with global viewership and scope was expressly aimed at the state.”

Yeager became the first person to break the speed of sound on Mach 1 at Rogers Dry Lake in Southern California on Oct. 14, 1947.

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