Law of Cards: Kobe Bryant Gives the Gift of a "Cease and Desist Letter" for Mother’s Day

Law of Cards: Kobe Bryant Gives the Gift of a “Cease and Desist Letter” for Mother’s Day

An amusing dispute just broke out between Kobe Bryant and Goldin Auctions. Apparently, Kobe's mother was in possession of quite a few of Kobe's items that he left behind, and she contracted with Goldin Auctions to help her sell them.

This upset Kobe, who sent a cease and desist letter to tell Goldin to stop.

Legal aside: This is going to make for an awkward Mother's Day for the Bryants next weekend. I can see the inscription on Kobe's card to his mom: "Why mom, why? Love, Kobe"

Now that would make for a great piece of memorabilia, which she could later auction off too.

After receiving Kobe's cease and desist letter, Goldin filed a declaratory judgment action against Bryant.

Legal translation: Your Honor, Mr. Bryant has no rights in any of this stuff. He left it behind and likely forgot about it. Can you tell him to go back to work and stop worrying about things that are no longer his?

And so begins the Battle Over Kobe's Stuff. Er, I mean Kobe's Mom's Stuff. Or, I guess, the battle is technically over "Is it Kobe's Stuff or Kobe's Mom's Stuff?"

Obviously, it's Goldin's position that the stuff is Pamela Bryant's. Because of that, she can do whatever she wants with it. As proof of her ownership, Goldin cites to a few facts, such as her paying $1,500 a month to store the stuff for the last five years.

You would think if millionaire Kobe knew or cared about it, he would have paid to store it. Or at least asked for it back.

Kobe's response is not due until the day after Mother's Day (May 12), so we'll have to wait for his position. But, at this point I really like Goldin's position. In fact, I (and I think most people) can relate to it.

You see, sometime in the early to mid-90s, I moved out of my parent's house to start my life. When I did, my parents gave me these words of encouragement, "Anything you leave behind is ours."

Legal translation: Your sister is taking over your room. We're turning your sister's room into a workout/storage/libray/extra bedroom. And in order to do that, your stuff needs to be gone. Either pack it into your bags or we'll pack it into trash bags.

It was clear. Anything I didn't take, I was handing over to them.

This was fine. I didn't want most of the crap I was leaving behind anyway. They could keep my little league and soccer trophies, those horrible clothes from the 1980s and those Winger and Cinderella CDs that Columbia House sent to me when I forgot to cancel my subscription.

I bet Kobe's mom gave him a similar speech.

Now, when I started out, I needed to leave some things behind. I did not move into a mansion like I imagine Kobe did with room for everything. But that allowed me to develop some negotiation skills:

Me: Come on mom, I'm moving into a 1,200-square foot apartment with roommates. Can I at least keep my bike here?

Mom: OK. But it stays in the garage. If you don't come and get it in three years, we're selling it at a garage sale.

Me (internally to myself): Yes! Score one for Paul!

I'm sure Kobe's first place had room for everything he wanted to take. Heck, it probably had room to fit everything in his parents' house if he wanted. If it didn't, he surely could have asked his mom to hold on to a couple of items.

(Well, not him. I'm sure his agent, manager, or his legal team could have performed these negotiations. They probably would have scored a better deal than I did).

Also, during the years, my mom did ask me a couple times if I wanted a couple of items that she stumbled upon. Each time she asked, I said no.

According to Pamela Bryant's declaration filed with the case, the same happened with her and Kobe. And Kobe made it clear, he didn't want the items.

So, to summarize, Kobe left the items, he never asked about them, his mom paid to store them, and when asked, he did not want them back. That's the theme Goldin is going to go for, and it has appeal.

Again, we haven't heard Kobe's side yet, but we will soon. Not only that, but the judge will also decide quickly (likely immediately after a hearing on May 14) whether or not Goldin can sell Kobe's childhood memories to the highest bidder.

Legal translation: Anyone else reveling in the fact that this all occurs immediately after Mother's Day?

Unless there's something unexpected in Kobe's response, I expect this case will wrap up quickly in favor of Goldin. But who knows…Kobe may come back with a contract negotiated by his ruthless legal team 20 years ago which required his mom to pay to store the items, while allowing him to keep ownership.

Also, don't overlook the broader implications of this case; it could provide legal precedent for parents everywhere. We could call it the Mother's Day Rule:

"Anything you leave at mom's becomes hers."

It would be the ultimate Mother's Day gift to moms everywhere.

The filings (of interest) can be clicked on below.

  1. Complaint
  2. Memorandum in support of motion to show cause (Legal translation: here's why we should win now!)
  3. Declaration of Kobe's mom (Legal observation: I think this is the document that wins it for Goldin)

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Paul Lesko is a shareholder at Simmons Hanly Conroy and the chair of its Intellectual Property Department (http://www.simmonsfirm.com). Don’t hold the fact that Paul is a lawyer against him, he’s also a rabid baseball and college basketball fan, and an avid baseball card collector. Paul can be found on Twitter @Paul_Lesko and Google+.

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