A model who took a photo for Nestle when he was 39, but then never heard back from them, has been awarded over $15.6 million after he found out they had been using his images for years on the Taster’s Choice Coffee labels. Russell Christoff is now 55 and retired, but used to model around the Northern California area.
In 1986 he did a two-hour photoshoot for Nestle but thought that nothing had come of it. Until he found his photo on an instant coffee brand by Nestle while in a small drug store in 2002. He was so shocked that he picked up the jar in surprise and walked over to the shop clerk saying “Look this has my face on it!” and the shop clerk confirmed that indeed the photo did look like Mr. Christoff.
In the end, he had to enter a legal dispute with Nestle USA to get to the bottom of this. The company tried to offer him a mere $100,000 after profiting off his face in multiple regions of the world for over 20 years. But he turned this down and asked for $8.5 million as a settlement. Christoff argued Nestle had profited off his face for two decades and that he never gave his consent for using the photo. This meant that Nestle was in the wrong and was using his image without permission.
The case ended up in front of a court with Nestle USA being ordered to pay Christoff $15.6 million which the jury decided on due to it being 5% of the Glendale-based company’s profits from 1997 to 2003. The freeze-dried coffee was sold in the United States, Mexico, South Korea, Japan, Israel, and Kuwait. The Mexican version featured a photoshopped photo where My Christoff had longer sideburns and a darker skin complexion just to appear more South American.
When asked why he took so long to figure out his image was being used without consent, Christoff simply replied that he never buys instant coffee. He is a coffee lover and therefore sticks to grinding down his beans and using an espresso machine. Christoff though he did appear in some corporate training videos and hosted a television show, is now a kindergarten teacher in the Bay Area of Antioch. Thought it now looks like he will be ready to retire with this payout!