Benjamin Appelbaum, Attorney at Law

Nonprofit company accuses basketball star of trademark violation

New Jersey companies and individuals who have acquired a trademark should be aware of the process of protecting it from illegal use. Sometimes, this involves a small entity taking on a larger one. In one lawsuit, a Maryland nonprofit is accusing a basketball star of using its slogan on social media and profiting from it.

According to the nonprofit known as Game Plan, Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James and his media company are accruing profit by using its trademarked phrase. James' company, Uninterrupted, allegedly used the phrase "I am more than an athlete" despite it having been trademarked by Game Plan. Others are named in the filing including Nike, ESPN and a video game company. Game Plan seeks $33 million. It says that it has used that phrase since 2016 and trademarked it in 2018.

According to the lawsuit, after a Feb. 16, 2018, game in Washington, D.C., while he was still a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers, James used the phrase on Instagram. It was in response to a Fox News host saying athletes should "shut up and dribble" and not get involved in other topics. James used an image with the trademarked phrase capitalized and in neon.

The company says the coverage James received boosted his brand and was in violation of the law for trademark protection. Trademarks can be valuable to a company. If another person or entity uses a trademark, it is important to be aware of it and take the necessary steps to stop it. Recovering compensation can also be key. To address these issues, a lawyer experienced in trademark law may be able to help.

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Benjamin Appelbaum, Attorney at Law - Intellectual Property

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