It seems New York Jets quarterback Tim Tebow can’t escape the clothing business, even though he technically hasn’t touched a thread of merchandise. Last month we discussed Nike Inc.’s lawsuit against Reebok International Ltd, accusing its rival of violating the terms of a contract regarding Tebow merchandise. Reebok wanted to squeeze every last dollar out of its licensing contract with the NFL before Nike launched its own line of Tebow apparel. The two companies reached a settlement to remove thousands of jerseys sporting the quarterback’s name after he was traded from the Denver Broncos to the Jets.
Now another intellectual property dispute over Tebow clothing is heating up. Tebow’s lawyers have sent a cease and desist letter to a T-shirt manufacturer accused of illegally using Tebow’s name to sell apparel. The company has made a green shirt that says “My Jesus” in a design that looks like the New York Jets’ logo. The company expressed surprise at the request but refused to give in to the attorneys’ demands. Calling the design “positive and innocuous,” the company insists it’s legally sound because it doesn’t mention the player by name.
Tebow is widely known to be a deeply religious Christian. As a college football player he wore references to biblical verses on his eye black and his propensity to kneel on one knee in prayer led to the coining of the phrase “Tebowing.” Although his name isn’t mentioned on the shirt, the mention of Jesus with an image similar to the Jets logo constitutes a strong reference to the player.
Tebow doesn’t appear to be involved with the cease and desist letter and the T-shirt company’s owner said he may not even be aware of its product, let alone opposed to it. The owner says he and his associates are fans of the player, and have no plans to stop producing the shirts. They said that while they don’t want to trespass on legitimate intellectual property rights, they’re not willing to give up their own, either.
Some might call the dispute a David and Goliath battle, but the battle won’t begin in earnest until one side or the other takes official legal action. Tebow fans, stay tuned.
Source: North Jersey.com, “Tebow lawyers threatening to sue T-shirt makers,” May 19, 2012