A trademark battle is brewing between two major sporting goods companies over one of the most popular names in the NFL. Nike, which will soon become the official supplier of licensed NFL apparel, is suing Adidas’ Reebok International for using quarterback Tim Tebow’s name on its New York Jets-related clothing.
Nike accuses Reebok of illegally trying to capitalize on Tebow’s March 21 trade to the New York Jets by selling jerseys and other apparel with the quarterback’s name on it, essentially stealing Nike’s intellectual property and taking away sales it would otherwise make after it becomes the official supplier April 1.
Nike’s lawsuit seeks to bar Reebok from selling the Tebow-themed merchandise, plus unspecified damages. It claims retailers have resisted placing orders with Nike because they have pending orders with Reebok and want to sell out that inventory before placing a new order with Nike.
“It is unlikely that a consumer who purchases an unauthorized Tebow-identified NFL jersey or t-shirt from Reebok this week will purchase an authorized Tebow jersey or t-shirt from Nike the following week,” Nike’s complaint says.
A U.S. district judge ordered Reebok to temporarily stop producing and selling Tebow clothing and to recall any New York Jets apparel with Tebow’s name on it. The company has also been barred from taking more orders for those items. Reebok is allowed to distribute and sell Denver Broncos-related apparel with Tebow’s name that was manufactured before March 1, the expiration date of the company’s licensing agreement with the NFL.
After leading the Broncos to the NFL playoffs as quarterback of that team, Tebow, 24, was named the most popular professional athlete in the U.S. in an ESPN poll. His Broncos jersey was the second-highest selling of all NFL players last season. Sales of that jersey are expected to remain high, despite his trade to the Jets.
Nike paid a reported $1.1 billion to be the NFL’s official provider for the next five years. The company also has an individual contract with Tebow to market clothing under his name.
Source: The Wall Street Journal, “Reebok Ordered to Halt Tebow Apparel,” Chad Bray, March 29, 2012