Topps suing Upper Deck over use of ‘exclusive’ images

Topps and CMG Worldwide Inc. have filed a trademark infringement lawsuit in Indianapolis against Upper Deck, citing the California-based company wrongfully used images and names of select players whose rights are licensed by Topps.

The suit, filed Monday, surrounds Upper Deck’s 2008 MLB SP Legendary Cuts Baseball brand that features Hall of Fame players under the umbrella of celebrity-licensing agency CMG Worldwide Inc. Topps announced in April an exclusive card licensing deal with CMG that provided the company with exclusive rights to 16 baseball legends, including Ty Cobb, Lou Gehrig and Jackie Robinson. The lawsuit targets Upper Deck’s use of Gehrig, Robinson, Mel Ott, Jimmie Foxx, Rogers Hornsby, Thurman Munson, George Sisler and Johnny Mize.

The suit states Upper Deck lost the right to use those player’s information after its contract with CMG expired and Topps signed the exclusive deal. In the complaint, Topps said it "would not have entered into these agreements without having the rights to the legends’ intellectual property on an [description]
exclusive basis."

Court documents state that under the agreement with CMG, Topps was granted "The exclusive right and license . . . to use the property in connection with the cards (trading cards) as outlined below: Property’s name, likeness and/or statistical data on and in connection with the manufacture, production, marketing, distribution and sale of all trading card products including but not limited to base cards, relic cards featuring authentic cut signatures and/or pieces of game-used equipment such as bats, caps. etc., event/milestone cards, advertising and/or promotional cards, game cards, digital/electronic cards and stickers."

Upper Deck released the following statement regarding the latest developments: "Upper Deck has not been served by either CMG or Topps with a summons or complaint, nor has it had an opportunity to fully review the allegations contained therein. Nonetheless, based upon the information available to it, Upper Deck believes that the lawsuit is factually and legally inaccurate. Upper Deck will vigorously defend itself, and pursue all remedies available to it pursuant to the law, in this matter."

Topps is seeking unspecified monetary damages and a court order barring Upper Deck from using the above names and images its upcoming products.

On Tuesday, June 10, Topps and CMG took another step in preventing any of the said cards from seeing a widespread release – with SP Legendary Cuts scheduled for release on June 11 – by serving a temporary restraining order against Upper Deck. Under this 10-day restraining order, Upper Deck is fordden from using names, likeness, images, signatures, etc., of players stated above in any products, advertising or online promotion.

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