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As a custom business card printer and I allowed to use a MLB team logo if the product is for a MLB player. I have no MLB license

Fredericksburg, VA |

For example, if Derek Jeter came to my business and requested to have custom high end business cards made with the New York Yankees logo embossed on the coin. Am I legally allowed to do this if I do not have a MLB license?

Attorney Answers 4

Posted

Hi,

Let me start with a caveat: this is general advice and every situation especially in this area can pose any number of facts or circumstances that may make a big difference.

If you are an "innocent printer" in that there is no reason to believe that your customer has no right to exploit and use the trademarks in question then in all liklihood the pursuant to the Act, the worse case should be only an injunction preventing you from doing so again.

Section 1114(2)(A) of the Lanham Act provides the following: Where an infringer or violator is engaged solely in the business of printing the mark or violating matter for others and establishes that he or she was an innocent infringer or innocent violator, the owner of the right infringed or person bringing the action under section 1125(a) of this title shall be entitled as against such infringer or violator only to an injunction against future printing.

That said, where famous trademarks are concerned you need to be very careful because it becomes very hard to argue "I had no idea.". They aggressively pursue infringement claims. So, NFL, NHL, MLB, NBA, etc be very wary. If Derek walks in himself, well no problem, but if some other guy you never heard of walks in claiming to have an asssociation with MLB, I would be very suspect and probably ask for some verification that you can keep a copy of for your records or better yet, just don't bother with it.

This is not a legal conclusion, but most MLB players can acquire almost anything they want with proper branding through the league or through the leagues sanctioned providers. I would be somewhat shocked if DJ needed to approach an "out-of-network" provider for something like business cards, but anything is possible of course and I am far from an expert on how the MLB operates.

I would strongly advice that you consult a lawyer for a more detailed explanation and to ensure your interests are protected here.

I will link you to some helpful legal info below and you are welcome to contact me if you would like further clarification.

Best regards,
Frank
Natoli-Lapin, LLC
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Bruce E. Burdick

Bruce E. Burdick

Posted

I do not think the "innocent infringer" defense will work against a suit by the big pro sports leagues. No judge or jury will likely buy that defense, as it flies in the face of common sense.

Posted

The solution is potentially very simple. Request a letter from the player's attorney that your are authorized. Further, if you write to the legal department of any league, they will be able to the precise response based on league rules and IP ownership and licensing.

In the meantime, the caution counselled by my colleague is entirely appropriate.

The above is general legal and business analysis. It is not "legal advice" but analysis, and different lawyers may analyse this matter differently, especially if there are additional facts not reflected in the question. I am not your attorney until retained by a written retainer agreement signed by both of us. I am only licensed in California. See also avvo.com terms and conditions item 9, incorporated as if it was reprinted here.

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Posted

Not without a license from the Yankees. However, it is possible that baseball players have a contractual right to use the logo of their teams to make business cards and otherwise promote their careers. Standard player contracts address this issue, and my suggestion would be that you ask the player or his agent to show your lawyer the contract before printing the cards.

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Bruce E. Burdick

Bruce E. Burdick

Posted

I think this will be prohibited by the union contract between the MLB and the MLBPA so as to prevent players generating collector items by producing their own "pseudo-official" cards. You need to check with the team, not just take the player's word.

Maurice N Ross

Maurice N Ross

Posted

As almost always, I admire Bruce's sage wisdom and concise responses.

Bruce E. Burdick

Bruce E. Burdick

Posted

Thanks, my friend.

Posted

So you want to produce fake memorabilia to help a player generate side income? Wow, that is a recipe for trouble for both of you. Check with the league and team. I doubt this is permitted, otherwise players would be selling souvenir business cards or souvenir signature cards with team logos on them. I think what has to be done is to provide these through the league or team so the team can control this possibile diversion of income.

I am not your lawyer and you are not my client. Free advice here is without recourse and any reliance thereupon is at your sole risk. This is done without compensation as a free public service. I am licensed in IL, MO, TX and I am a Reg. Pat. Atty. so advice in any other jurisdiction is strictly general advice and should be confirmed with an attorney licensed in that jurisdiction.

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