Out-Law News 1 min. read

Becker vs. Pocher case could also be a matter of re-establishing brand reputation

Boris Becker argued in court that a German comedian had violated his personal rights. According to an expert in trademark law, the proceedings may also have an impact on his brand reputation.

According to German media reports, Boris Becker has filed an appeal against the judgement of the Offenburg Regional Court  [available only in German language] of 15 November, in which the court ruled that Becker's personality rights had not been violated by the actions of German comedian Oliver Pocher.

In the legal dispute before the German court, Becker asserted claims against Pocher for a segment in a television show which had aired in October 2020. In the show, Pocher had made an appeal for donations from the public through which €413.34 was raised for Becker. However, the money could not be handed over because Becker refused to accept it.

Pocher then invented a fantasy fashion award with a prize trophy in which the donations were hidden. Becker was given the impression that he was being awarded the prize for his fashion collection. "The fact that the prize was created and awarded to Boris Becker for the sole purpose of sending him the cash donations without his knowledge was something the latter did not know when he received the prize," said the Offenburg Regional Court. When the programme aired on TV, however, this became obvious to the viewers.

The ruling says that Becker felt insulted and believed his personal rights had been violated by the television segment. He took legal action against the use of the film and image recordings. However, the Offenburg Regional Court dismissed the action. The court said it was true that Pocher could not rely on Becker's consent because he had not been informed in advance of the details of the planned broadcast - in particular, its satirical character. However, according to the court, the publication of the broadcast was nevertheless legal, as it concerned "portraits of contemporary history".

In its decision, the court weighed the public's interest in information against the plaintiff's privacy interests. In its view, the interests of freedom of expression and freedom of broadcasting outweighed Becker’s interests.

Brand protection and tennis lawyer Désirée Fields said: "While the legal case at hand is one where the court had to weigh up public vs. privacy interests, the real issue for Becker is likely to be rooted much deeper. Becker has recently been released from jail and returned to Germany this month with the wish to start a new chapter of his life and re-establish his good name and brand reputation both in the world of tennis and generally. Being the subject of satire as occurred here would certainly not further his ambitions though will be hard to avoid given his level of international fame."

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