By now, many of you have heard the news that Upper Deck is on its way back to the courtroom. Fresh on the heels of its costly lawsuit with Konami for producing counterfeit Yu Gi Oh cards, UD finds itself heading back to court for alleged trademark infringement regarding its recently released baseball card products. (TO READ MORE, click here)
After UD released its 2009 Ultimate Collection and Signature Stars Baseball products last week, many who saw the products wondered how the card company could produce featuring MLB logos despite the fact that they didn’t have a license to do so. Well, less than a week later MLB has responded with a lawsuit against UD coming days after sending a letter to distributors asking them to stop selling the products and return them to the card maker.
While Upper Deck has the right to use the images of MLB players on its cards, according to the exclusive deal MLB signed with Topps, UD is not licensed to produce cards with MLB logos attached which brought on the suit. While UD’s two new products, and I’m assuming the four remaining baseball card releases scheduled to hit the market, do come with the disclaimer “these products are not licensed by Major League Baseball,” did UD really believe by placing a statement like that on the products that they could get around the licensing issue?
Perhaps their thinking was that if they unveiled the 2009 products in 2010 they would be free to use the logos because they could claim the sets were produced in 2009 when UD was still licensed with the MLB. Or perhaps they consulted their team of lawyers prior to bullrushing the 2010 baseball card market and have been assured they have a legal loophole up their sleeves that would allow them to continue to produce the unlicensed logoed cards.
Maybe UD thought they could get the products out on the market and create enough of a buzz about them that the demand for them would exceed the financial damages of another court case. As all collectors realize, now that a lawsuit has been filed by MLB, the two products released (and likely any remaining scheduled 2010 UD Baseball releases) will be pulled from the shelves. The limited run could make them much more sought after by collectors looking for a limited release and demand could be huge, sending values through the roof.
Perhaps this legal loophole would allow UD to continue to produced unlicensed cards that include logos and ultimately leave Topps wondering why they dipped so deep into their bank account to get the exclusive license in the first place.
While it will take some time to answer all the questions posed here, one thing is for certain. Either Upper Deck is going to come out of all this looking really smart or really stupid. Only time will tell so stay tuned to www.tuffstuff.com for updates on this story.