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The legal battle between Nike and Kawhi Leonard

The controversy over "Klaw", the logo used by Nike for the first signatures of the Clippers player

The legal battle between Nike and Kawhi Leonard The controversy over Klaw, the logo used by Nike for the first signatures of the Clippers player

*** UPDATE 23/4/2020 ***

It seems that the end of a long legal battle has come: on one side the Los Angeles Clippers star Kawhi Leonard, on the other Nike, Inc. At the center of the case is the ownership of "Klaw", the logo used by Nike whose intellectual property has been uncertain until yesterday. Leonard - in all likelihood under the advice of the new sponsor New Balance - tried to claim ownership of the brand with all his might but was rejected once again. According to Maxine Bernstein of The Oregonian, district judge Michael W. Mosman dismissed Leonard's attorneys' latest move.

"The logo that Nike designers helped create with Leonard represents a part of intellectual property considered independent of the original sketch that Kawhi originally conceived and shared with Nike. It is not simply a derivative of the sketch itself. I find that it is new and significantly different from a design point of view"

Judge Mosman expressed himself in these terms after an hour of consultation on the phone and after the various briefings that preceded this judgment. Nike's lawyer, Tamar Duvdevani, commented on the judge's decision once again stating that the similarity between the two images exists, but they are not the same: "Simply one is not the same as the other. The authorship of a logo goes beyond simple indications and simple ideas. Here it is clear that Nike designers put the pen on the sheet to get something tangible".



***UPDATES 19/7/2019***: as expected, one month later Nike replied to the lawsuit filed by the Los Angeles Clippers' player, with a countersuit against his claims opened in the US District Court. In his defense, the American giant said that Leonard had indeed shared a sketch of the logo he produced at the college, but that after the evident changes made by a team of graphic designers the finished product shows substantial differences, thus denying any wrongdoing towards of the player. Indeed, the US brand, which has also attached pictures of it, charged Leonard with copyright infringement, fraud and breach of contract, asking the court to prevent Leonard from being able to use the logo.

Kawhi Leonard is not only kept busy by the NBA Finals, the Toronto Raptors player number 2,  will in fact have to solve another battle, but of a different kind. Leonard has filed a lawsuit against Nike because of an old logo that Beaverton's company would have copyrighted without the consent of the inventor, the former San Antonio Spurs player.

But let's take a step back to explain the course of the entire story: in 2011, just drafted, Kahwi Leonard revealed 'Klaw' or 'KL2', a logo depicting a hand made up of his stylized initials and number 2, nothing but a sketch he had already drawn during his early college years. Over the years, the logo has been regularly used by Nike, Leonard's technical sponsor until his recent signing with New Balance, but only thanks to a special concession concerning the 'certain merchandise', a specific marketing license that in some cases also involved the Jordan collections, the brand that 'refined' the logo in 2012.

In recent times Leonard has discovered that he can no longer use the logo he himself had conceived to put on clothes and shoes to be used in the summer camps and charity games he usually organizes, given that Nike has denied him consent having registered the brand as its own, as a copyright violation.

The case concerning the 'contested' logo of the two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year came last Monday to the United States District Court in Southern California because, as New York Times' Marc Stein revealed, there would be a recent approach by of the Los Angeles Clippers, intending to acquire the rights of the logo so as to be able then to pursuit the same Leonard to sign for them when he will become free-agent, at the end of the season.