Arent Fox Is The Astronaut’s Lawyer

One of the most iconic photographs in American (and world) history is the “visor shot” of Buzz Aldrin on the moon snapped by his fellow astronaut Neil Armstrong. The “visor shot” shows Dr. Aldrin standing on the lunar surface, with, as he writes in his autobiography Magnificent Desolation, “the curve of the horizon easing into the blackness of space.”

The photo has become one of the most famous in history, capturing the triumph of the American spirit and mankind’s greatest scientific achievement. Years after the Apollo 11 mission, Dr. Aldrin discovered the Bermuda-based liquor company Bacardi-Martini Rum was using the “visor shot” in a print advertisement depicting a bottle of rum pouring its contents onto an image of Dr. Aldrin standing on the lunar surface. The lower half of the photograph had been altered to portray Dr. Aldrin wearing swim trunks and fins. As he wrote in his memoir, “It made a mockery of this iconic image.”

Dr. Aldrin turned to Robert O’Brien, the managing partner of Arent Fox’s Los Angeles office, to help protect his right of publicity and, more importantly, the dignity of a great moment in American history. Robert immediately went to work defending Dr. Aldrin in both a court of law and the court of public opinion. In addition to filing a lawsuit against Bacardi for misappropriation of Dr. Aldrin’s image and identity, Robert, along with Dr. Aldrin, made numerous media appearances to denounce the advertisement’s demeaning portrayal of the legendary astronaut.

Robert’s efforts on behalf of Dr. Aldrin were successful. The case was settled and Bacardi made a public apology.

Robert’s success for Dr. Aldrin in the Bacardi case encouraged more of America’s astronaut heroes to seek his assistance in protecting their images and legal rights. After resolving the Bacardi matter, Robert represented Dr. Aldrin, as well as the widows of astronauts Pete Conrad (who commanded the Apollo 12 mission) and Jim Irwin (the Apollo 15 lunar module pilot) in a case against the toy company Action Products. The company was using photographs of the three astronauts on the packaging of their toy spacecraft models.

In his autobiography, Dr. Aldrin writes what happened next:

“Rob O’Brien represented all of us, and we proceeded on a united front. At one point, intimations were made in the settlement discussions that Action Products was willing to settle only with me and not with the others. But we stuck together, and after a ruling in our favor by the federal judge in our case, our efforts had a successful outcome.”

With Robert’s guidance and counsel, the case was settled on such amicable terms that Dr. Aldrin and Action Products later did business together by which the famed astronaut licensed his image for use with the toy company’s Saturn V model rocket.

To read more about Arent Fox’s representation of these American legends, please click here.