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December 1st, 2017
October/November Sports Industry News
The Value of the Greatest: Ali IP Holder Challenges Fox Over Use of Name and Likeness
In early October, Muhammad Ali Enterprises, which claims to own the trademark rights, copyrights, and right of publicity of Muhammad Ali, sued Fox Broadcasting Company for the allegedly unauthorized use of Ali's identity in a promotional video that Fox broadcast before the start of Fox's broadcast of the 2017 Super Bowl, alleging false endorsement and right of publicity claims. MAE alleges that rather than using Ali's name, image, and quotes for an editorial tribute, the video was also used to promote the Super Bowl. Claim's like MAE's illustrate the fine line between editorial or entertainment use and commercial use, with the latter potentially exposing the user to damages. Muhammad Ali Enterprises LLC v. Fox Broadcasting Company, 1:17-cv-7273 (N.D. Ill. October 10, 2017).
An Ambush in Need of Ade?
Several sports entities have challenged recent trademark applications filed by national food service entity Super Bakery Inc. for marks that appear to incorporate a team name or university name with the term "ADE." For example, Major League Baseball's Cleveland Indians and St. Louis Cardinals, Duke University, and Spartan Race have opposed trademark applications for INDIANADE, CARDINALADE, DUKEADE, and SPARTANADE. The teams argue that the use of these marks would cause consumer confusion by appearing to be official team-sponsored drinks. Super Bakery appears not to be a stranger to such arguments though, as several similar applications it filed over the years — including REBELADE, OKLAHOMAADE, NEBRASKAADE, and MIAMIADE — were also opposed (but ultimately registered after such oppositions were settled or the extensions of time to oppose expired).
A New One for Formula One
In an oft-used tactic when new owners take over a business, Formula One recently updated its brand logo. The motorsports racing competition, which was purchased by Liberty Media in January, explained that digital considerations were the motivation for the logo change and the new logo will help reposition the league as a forward-facing entertainment brand. The new logo is likely one of many changes the new owner will make going forward.
Socks Down...To Prevent Competitive Marketing
Despite its status as the official uniform supplier of NBA uniforms, Nike is receiving push back — or rather push down — for its "swoosh" logo, which appears on official NBA uniform socks. Competitive endorsers Steph Curry (Under Armour's lead NBA endorser) and James Harden (Adidas's lead NBA endorser) have been rolling down their Nike-logo emblazoned socks during games — or occasionally in Harden's case, cutting off the logo completely — to avoid the appearance of supporting a competitive brand. These examples of prominent endorsers protecting their sponsoring brand evokes the famous "American flag shoulder draping" that Michael Jordan used during the 1992 medal ceremony: the flag placement covered up official sponsor Reebok's logo on Jordan's Team USA awards ceremony uniform.
A Rare Mark?
Despite the use of the same phrase over a similar fanged teeth design, a federal court denied preliminary relief to a football apparel brand seeking to prevent Rutgers University's football team and assistant football coach from using an allegedly infringing mark in social media posts and recruitment material. The case continues, but shows the difficulty of proving a likelihood of consumer confusion — the hallmark of trademark infringement — even where the marks, targeted consumers, and intended trade channels overlap.
Noted and Quoted.
Athletes Quarterly recently published Sean Kane's article " Game On: Have an Idea for a Great Video Game?," which provides a roadmap for how athletes can launch or participate in new video game business ventures.
Want to Learn More?
On December 5, Jeffrey Greenbaum presents a webinar on "Influencer Marketing: Creative vs. Legal" for the Society of Digital Agencies.
On December 11, Christopher Chase and Hayden Goldblatt present "Keys to Success for Marketers Making Film & Television Deals" at the ANA Business of Marketing Law conference being held at PepsiCo's headquarters.
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