Law of Cards: Yet Another Skirmish Looms Between Panini and Leaf

Law of Cards: Yet Another Skirmish Looms Between Panini and Leaf

Panini and Leaf sure enjoy suing each other. In under a year and a half, Panini and Leaf have gotten into five legal skirmishes, and there's a sixth looming on the horizon.

First, in February 2012, Panini sued Leaf over its use of Kevin Durant stickers on other card companies' trading cards and including those cards in Leaf's Best of Basketball product. In essence, by doing this Leaf created new Durant autograph cards, which ticked off Panini because it had an exclusive contract with Durant. It only took two months for this case to wrap up -- confidentially.

Then, in February 2013, Leaf sued Panini for trademark infringement alleging that Leaf's PRIZM products infringed Leaf's PRISMATIC trademark. A blink later, and this case was promptly dismissed by Leaf.

However, the dismissal was not an end to the matter. Leaf quickly followed by bringing two separate oppositions at the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) against Panini. The first focused on Panini's PRIZM trademark (again), and the second against Panini's LIMITED trademark.

Facing two TTAB oppositions, Panini wanted to ensure that Leaf had some skin in the game, so it sued Leaf for Leaf's Valiant products alleging those products infringed its Crusade copyright(s).

So, each company filed and dismissed a lawsuit against each other, and currently there are two Leaf matters against Panini, and one Panini matter against Leaf.

Soon there will be another Panini action against Leaf.

On July 23, the Trademark Office published Leaf's LEAF LIMITED trademark. Once a trademark is published, a 30-day window is opened in which others can challenge the mark. I expect Panini will oppose the LEAF LIMITED mark, since it arguably falls within the scope of Panini's LIMITED trademark (which is already the subject of one of the above-discussed Leaf battles).

Panini has until August 22 to start yet another Panini v. Leaf matter. Given how much these companies love suing the other, you can count on it being filed by then.

The information provided in Paul Lesko's "Law of Cards" column is not intended to be legal advice, but merely conveys general information related to legal issues commonly encountered in the sports industry. This information is not intended to create any legal relationship between Paul Lesko, the Simmons Browder Gianaris Angelides & Barnerd LLC or any attorney and the user. Neither the transmission nor receipt of these website materials will create an attorney-client relationship between the author and the readers.

The views expressed in the "Law of Cards" column are solely those of the author and are not affiliated with the Simmons Law Firm. You should not act or rely on any information in the "Law of Cards" column without seeking the advice of an attorney. The determination of whether you need legal services and your choice of a lawyer are very important matters that should not be based on websites or advertisements.

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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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