Major League Baseball Properties filed suit the week of Jan. 19 week against Donruss, saying the company’s recently released baseball card sets depict certain retired major leaguers and current minor league players in uniforms that feature visible and identifiable logos that are trademarks of MLB Properties.
The products at issue are Donruss Threads Baseball, Playoff Prime Cuts IV Baseball and some of the cards depicting former MLB stars that are part of the Americana Sports Legends product. The suit alleges the cards in question feature players in uniforms that feature trademarked logos and uniform styles. The suit also alleges the inclusion of current minor league players violates those players’ rights of publicity, which are controlled by MLB Properties.
In addition to trademark infringement, MLB alleges that Donruss is guilty of unfair competition and a breach of contract, saying the terms of Donruss’ previous licensing agreement with MLB Properties prohibited the company from ever producing any products featuring MLB trademarks without written consent, even after the licensing agreement had expired.
Without a license from MLB Properties, team logos can’t appear anywhere on the card. But MLB Properties claims that any distinctive trade dress, including uniform colors, striping, or even the positioning of club names and logos are all trademarks of the league, and depicting them in any way on a card is not only infringement, it could confuse customers into thinking the products are licensed by the league.
In addition to seeking punitive damages, MLB Properties is requesting that Donruss turn over all of the product currently in its possession, as well as any promotional materials, to MLB Properties.