IP Issues Force Basketball To Back Down From Krypto-Nate Promotion

from the seriously? dept

JJ sent in yet another story of intellectual property claims getting in the way of what actually makes sense. At the NBA all-star event, 5'7" NBA player Nate Robinson surprised a lot of people by winning the slam dunk competition, which brought a lot of attention to his "alter-ego" Krypto-Nate, something of a play on another player dressing up as Superman. The NBA (reasonably so) thought it would be fun to offer special t-shirts, in the color green, with the "Krypto-Nate" name on the back... until issues surrounding potential fights with DC Comics, owners of certain IP around Superman, came into play. The story isn't entirely clear concerning who made the final decision to back down from the promotion -- and, it may have just been folks at the NBA hoping to do future deals with DC Comics -- but the planned promotion was clearly shelved and worries about IP issues were the apparent reason. It's not clear that DC Comics would have had any actual legal claim on such a shirt, but just the fact that IP worries over such an obvious and reasonable promotion caused it to be killed (once again) highlights the ridiculous impact of IP laws gone nuts.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    John Duncan Yoyo, Mar 4th, 2009 @ 5:58am

    SI needs to call DC for another comics cover

    They aren't worried about DC but the parent company Warner Communications.

    Sports Illustrated needs to call Didio over at DC. Request another Superman artist to do a Krypto-Nate cover for SI which can be repurposed as the art for a giveaway t-shirt. Then DC, SI and the NBA can all claim victory.

     

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  2.  
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    jonnyq, Mar 4th, 2009 @ 7:41am

    Shaq uses a superman-style logo for promotional stuff. Was there a legal deal cut there?

     

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  3.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 4th, 2009 @ 8:13am

    Didn't Superman pass into the public realm not too long ago though?

     

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  4.  
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    RD, Mar 4th, 2009 @ 8:14am

    Big Media corporations...

    ...have no understanding of copyright law except the belief that "We can dictate all terms."

    I talked with a guy at the recent NY ComiCon show. He worked on a book, I forget the title, but it was a historical book on comics. It had covers and artwork from both Marvel and DC. This is CLEARLY fair use, yet BOTH companies sued him and wanted thousands of dollars in licensing fees. They also BOTH used the SAME argument: You have too much of our artwork and not enough of the other company's art.

     

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  5.  
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    WisconsinGod, Mar 4th, 2009 @ 8:18am

    Shaq's Rights

    Shaq has the superman-style logo tatooed on his arem. The logo he uses for the promotional piece is his tatoo, not the superman logo. He has the rights to his own body, so therefore he can use promotions based on that medium.

    (Now, unless the tatoo artist was liscensed to use that image, the claim could stand for that infraction, not necessarily on the subsiquent uses of the tatoo artists design, given that the tatoo artist signed off the rights to his work once it was placed on shaq's body.)

     

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  6.  
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    Paul Brinker, Mar 4th, 2009 @ 9:35am

    Kryptonite is real

    It came out back in 2006 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jadarite

    you cant claim IP on something that really exists.

     

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  7.  
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    Sid, Mar 4th, 2009 @ 9:44am

    Technically - No

    "Kryptonite" (tm) was NOT found - a SIMILAR mineral was found (it lacks 1 checmical in its make-up from the fictional Kryptonite mineral described in DC Comics). Jadarite is close - but NOT complete. Therefore, DC "could" push the issue - however I find it far more likely that John Duncan Yoyo's first comment would be a far more likey - and perhaps win/win/win scenario.

     

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  8.  
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    Ken, Mar 4th, 2009 @ 10:05am

    It's obvious that none of you have thought of anything original, and made any money off of it.

    DC came up with the name KRYPTONITE. They have the right to decide how that word is used. It's not a real word, it's not a real substance. Therefore, they get credit for dreaming it up.

    As much as I think Nate's Krypto-Nate persona is cool, the fact is if there was no KryptoNITE there would be no KryptoNATE.

    The NBA is not stupid. They know it...and would have clear any money making promotion with DC.

    So quit whinning about IP this or that. Just because somethign is cool or sensible doesn't mean it's legal. When you all dream up something and sell...and some asphat comes in and steals your chit, you have no right to cry.

     

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  9.  
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    Jason, Mar 4th, 2009 @ 10:06am

    Don't be silly

    What does this have to do with Kryptonite? That doesn't even make sense folks, he's a basketball playing rock all of a sudden?

    DC could have a real problem with KRYPTO the dog (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Krypto), Superman's pet, who also wears his symbol.

     

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  10.  
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    Ken, Mar 4th, 2009 @ 10:28am

    The issue isn't Nate using Krypto-Nate. The issue the NBA trying sell t-shirts using that name and the NBA making money off it.

    Nate can call himself Krypto-Nate all he wants.

     

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  11.  
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    RD, Mar 4th, 2009 @ 11:04am

    Er....FAIL

    "DC came up with the name KRYPTONITE. They have the right to decide how that word is used."

    Please, PLEASE tell me you dont really believe that? PLEASE tell me you didnt just open your Yamhole and spout this nonsense as if its correct. Perhaps you should check out copyright law and maybe a few case law studies before you opine on something you obviously only know through the indoctrination of Big Media Corporations.

    Say it with me: COPYRIGHT IS NOT ABSOLUTE

    NO, you do not "have the right to decide how that word is used." There are MANY limits on what you can do with your "creation" and locking the word up so NO one can use it or make a satirical, political or other commentary use on it is WRONG.

    COPYRIGHT IS NOT ABSOLUTE

    There are many, MANY instances and examples in case law that show FAIR USE applies to something like this. A parody, play-on-words and obvious humorous reference to the word IS ALLOWED UNDER COPYRIGHT LAW. Only idiots who are brainwashed by the Big Media Content corporations and their shill lawyers think otherwise.

    COPYRIGHT IS NOT ABSOLUTE

    Try to understand the importance of things like this before you open your yap again.

    Once again, for those in the cheap seats and with thick skulls:

    COPYRIGHT IS NOT ABSOLUTE

    You sir, are EPIC FAIL

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 4th, 2009 @ 11:10am

    I'm trying to muster up the effort to care...

    ...oops. I failed.

     

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  13.  
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    Ken, Mar 4th, 2009 @ 11:36am

    Do feel better now? :shakes head:

    You do realize, you're talking about the NBA...which makes MILLIONS on the licensing rights of every name of every player in the NBA.

    So while you're playing your little PS3 with NBA Live....millions were paid so you play with LeBron James.

    So you go right ahead....Start selling a T-shirt with some variation of SHAQ....SHAQ-TACKS or LeBRON-ONICS and see exactly how long it takes to get served.

    Just let me know...you just keep copying and pasting and attempting humor...and I'll laugh from court. I think the NBA knows a little more about IP law than some little fawk stick who can only come up with "fail".

     

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  14.  
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    Mike (profile), Mar 4th, 2009 @ 12:22pm

    Re:


    DC came up with the name KRYPTONITE. They have the right to decide how that word is used. It's not a real word, it's not a real substance. Therefore, they get credit for dreaming it up.


    Wrong. Very wrong. Trademark does not give you the right to decide how a word is used. It's there to avoid customer confusion... so it can only be used to stop a use that would confuse a customer into believing a commercial association that might dilute the brand.

    So quit whinning about IP this or that. Just because somethign is cool or sensible doesn't mean it's legal.

    And just because you think something is illegal, it doesn't mean it is.

     

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  15.  
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    Mike (profile), Mar 4th, 2009 @ 12:25pm

    Re:

    You do realize, you're talking about the NBA...which makes MILLIONS on the licensing rights of every name of every player in the NBA.

    Actually, do you realize that courts in the past few years have pointed out that sports players names and stats are public domain, and companies DO NOT need to pay for the rights to use those names and stats in a game?

    Sorta takes away your whole argument (and your claim to being more knowledgeable about the situation), doesn't it?

     

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  16.  
    identicon
    Ken, Mar 4th, 2009 @ 2:26pm

    That lawsuit was for CBSSports.com using player names for Fantasy baseball. That has NOT been tested for companies licensing names for videos games. Jeesh...get your facts straight.

    Here's the ruling....this has NOTHING to do with video game liknesses.

    Judge Mary Ann Medler found that the First Amendment takes precedence over MLB's "right of publicity." Since the stats that fantasy sites use are readily available in newspapers and online, they are not the exclusive property of MLB.

    The NFLPA just lost a huge lawsuit..28 million dollars....because they hadn't adequately licensed retired players names to EA for Madden games.

    Madden is the ONLY video game with real likeness and names. Know why? EA pays the NFLPA millions to use their likeness exclusively.

    How would you feel if someone was selling game with your name, likeness and stats....and you didn't get a cent?

    The NBA KNOWS THIS....and KNOWS they have no leg to stand on selling t-shirts. It would cost them more to defend their use over Krypto-Nate than to just license it with DC. Which is what I expect you might see, if they think they can sell enough shirts.

     

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  17.  
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    Ken, Mar 4th, 2009 @ 2:29pm

    Wrong. Very wrong. Trademark does not give you the right to decide how a word is used. It's there to avoid customer confusion... so it can only be used to stop a use that would confuse a customer into believing a commercial association that might dilute the brand.


    We're talking about COMMERICAL USE, not you playing with soap on a rope in the shower yelling to your right hand..."Here comes my Krytonite"

    I thought that was obvious...apparently not.

     

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  18.  
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    RD, Mar 4th, 2009 @ 2:35pm

    Ok...

    Lets start over on this. The big problem with painting an issue like this with a phrase like "IP issues" is that THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS IP! At least not in law. There is Copyright. There is Trademark. People (meaning lawyers and Big Media) refer to these collectively as "IP" but that is an invented term that has no standing legally. So the question to ask on an issue such as the on in this article is, what is the actual complaint about? Copyright or Trademark? Because, they have little leg to stand on either way with this "Kryptonite" spoof issue anyway, but at least we should be arguing about the actual merits of the complaint in question.

     

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  19.  
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    Mike (profile), Mar 4th, 2009 @ 2:48pm

    Re:


    Madden is the ONLY video game with real likeness and names. Know why? EA pays the NFLPA millions to use their likeness exclusively.


    Yes, their LIKENESS. Likeness is different than names and stats, which is what you originally talked about.

    Krypto-Nate is totally different.

     

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  20.  
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    Mike (profile), Mar 4th, 2009 @ 2:49pm

    Re:

    We're talking about COMMERICAL USE, not you playing with soap on a rope in the shower yelling to your right hand..."Here comes my Krytonite"

    Again, even with commercial use, IT DOES NOT GIVE YOU FULL CONTROL. You can still use it elsewhere, so long as it's not to confuse or dilute. Pepsi can use Coke's name in an ad, for example.

    I thought that was obvious...apparently not.

    The only thing obvious so far is how wrong you are...

     

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  21.  
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    Ken, Mar 4th, 2009 @ 2:53pm

    RD...Agreed.

    And I concur.....they (the NBA) would probably win. But anytime you're SELLING something, even if it's spoof...you gotta be prepared for a legal challenge. Companies protect their IP's (Trademarks, Patents, Copyrights, etc) vigorously....and rightly so.

    The question is...is it worth the NBA to endure a public lawsuit with DC over this on a t-shirt? Anyone with half a brain would say No.

     

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  22.  
    identicon
    Ken, Mar 4th, 2009 @ 3:27pm

    Right. I'm wrong, but the NBA is not going to risk selling the shirts. Ah huh.

    Putting coke in a pepsi ad, is far different than selling merchandise using a name that is copyrighted.

    I think you should go tell the NBA to go for it! Take your vast knowledge and tell the NBA lawyers they are morons.

    So...you can counter this fail this.. or fail that. Bottom line.....you won't be buying a Krypto-Nate NBA licensed t-shirt.

     

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  23.  
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    Mike (profile), Mar 4th, 2009 @ 6:25pm

    Re:

    Putting coke in a pepsi ad, is far different than selling merchandise using a name that is copyrighted.

    1. You're confusing copyright and trademark
    2. Krypto-nate is neither.

    Thanks for playing... I'm sure we have some parting gifts for you...

     

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  24.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Cowherd, Mar 7th, 2009 @ 7:17pm

    What?!

    So now DC Comics is claiming to "own" all wavelengths of visible light near 550nm and one of the 110 or so elements of the periodic table? Nice. Can I have 480nm and every word or phrase starting with "plutonium"? Pretty please with sugar on top?

    Of course, in the real world, everyone (except corporate legal departments, for some reason) knows you can't copyright single words, nor colors, and can only trademark them in connection with a particular business.

     

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