Jury to decide whether Bulova infringed law over Apollo 15 watch marketing

New York-based watchmaker Bulova has found itself at the centre of a legal battle after a judge ruled that a case lodged against the brand can move forward.

The case, which has been bought by Apollo 15 astronaut David Randolph Scott, challenges the rights of the Bulova and Sterling Jewelers, formerly known as Kay Jewelers,  to use Scott within its branding materials for a timepiece commemorating the mission.

During his third moon walk as part of the Apollo 15 mission, Scott wore a Bulovo chronograph, instead of the malfunctioning Omega Speedmaster chronograph the team had each been issued with, which was worn for the first two walks.

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While the timepiece was not an official partnership, the brand re-launched an updated version in 2014, the Special Edition Moon Chronograph, which the astronaut highlighted in the campaign.

Bulova and Kay both included references to Scott in descriptions of the Moon Watch on their own websites, and Bulova’s site features photos of Scott and a video containing audio of Scott’s voice.

In response to the suit, Bulova raised four defences to Scott’s misappropriation claims, arguing that any use was incidental, the use is protected under First Amendment principles as a matter of public interest, it is a piece of transformative work and Scott is not “readily identifiable” and so his likeness has not been used.

While the company provided four defences in order to attempt to prevent the case proceeding, District Judge Nathanael Cousins announced the case should continue.

“While Bulova may legally showcase its legitimate connection to Apollo 15, the court cannot say as a matter of law that defendants’ advertisements do not cross the event horizon into the black hole of misappropriation.

“But whatever connection the original chronograph created between Bulova and Apollo 15 does not automatically make Scott fair game.

“Even viewed in the light most favorable to Scott, this evidence is a parsec away from describing distress that no reasonable person can be expected to endure. Furthermore, there is no evidence to speak of showing that Defendants were intentional or reckless in the emotional harm they allegedly caused to Scott.”

The case will now be presented to a jury that will decide whether the companies improperly used Scott’s image and likeness, and whether the ads imply Scott endorsed the timepiece.

WatchPro reported back in 2016 how Bulova had developed a replica of the famous Apollo 15 moon watch that fetched a record $1.625m (£1.16m) at auction the year before.

The chronograph watch, worn by Apollo 15’s Colonel Dave Scott in 1971, made global headlines when it was put up for sale and went onto create history among the watch collector community.

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One Comment;

  1. Eli said:

    Left out of this story and the entire Apollo 15 scandal is the fact that A)Scott was not authorized to bring the Bulova on the mission. B)the Bulovas was a prototype not yet available on the commercial market so he could not have purchased it. C)no details have been released on how, conveniently, Scott managed to damage the crystal on the NASA issued Omega Speedmaster that then gave him the excuse to retrieve and wear the Bulova on the Lunar surface. D)The Bulova, being a personal property, was allowed to be kept by Scott after the mission(note that all the Omega’s were NASA issue and had to be returned, there is no private ownership of a NASA Speedmaster). E) The entire Apollo 15 crew were reprimanded and removed from future missions for “commercializing” the mission. F) The Bulova eventually fetched $1.6 million in auction. It doesn’t take a “rocket scientist” to figure out that Scott was given the watch by Bulova to try to find a way to wear it on the moon and give Bulova “Moonwatch” status. Wonder how much Scott was paid to damage the Omega and wear the Bulova?

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