Law of Cards: Industry-Wide Battle Looms Over Panini's LIMITED Trademark

Law of Cards: Industry-Wide Battle Looms Over Panini’s LIMITED Trademark

According to its database, the Trademark Office has initially approved Panini's LIMITED trademark filing. By doing so, it will now publish the trademark on February 19, and open up a 30-day window during which interested parties can oppose the application.

Legal translation: Mark your calendars. Unless the Trademark Office backtracks (it won't), by March 21, 2013, at least one trading card company will file an opposition action with the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board to knock out Panini's LIMITED trademark application.

Why? Well, the first danger here is to the entire industry. Now, Panini most likely just wants to prevent others from having a product called "Limited."But, a registration for LIMITED could, theoretically, prevent others from using the word "limited" on or in association with trading cards. That's a pretty big threat hanging over an industry where cards of "limited" circulation are more desirable than commons. Because of this, I wouldn't be surprised to see a thing called "cooperation" between trading card companies as they lock arms and jointly protest Panini's LIMITED.

Imagine Topps, Leaf and Upper Deck, potentially, all on the same side? Someone will have to make a trading card to memorialize that!

The second, and more personal danger is that just a few weeks ago I predicted, "There is NO WAY Panini gets a LIMITED registration in 2013." Now, I've been wrong before, but come on, being this wrong this early?

Industry, help me out!

It looks like the Trademark Office examiner thinks any registration would cover only products called "Limited." But, again, a LIMITED registration is broader than that. It technically gives Panini power over its competitors to prevent them from using a commonly used industry term. Also, I'm pretty sure the trademark examiner was not a collector, or else he or she would have picked up that the word "limited' is a generic term used to describe cards of, well, limited circulation.

The third, and most immediate danger from a Panini registration would be for Leaf, which used the Leaf Limited name in 2012 Leaf Metal Golf. Leaf Limited began as a standalone brand in 1994 when Leaf was connected with Donruss.

In fact, it would not surprise me if these Leaf Limited cards are what inspired Panini to file for a LIMITED registration.

It's been such a long time since Panini and Leaf last grappled (almost nine months without conflict!), that I think we are all ready for Round 2.

And Round 2 might just start on March 21. So, get your tickets now while you can! Or, just wait for me to cover it. You know I’ll be in the front row anyway.

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+.

User Comments

  1. Ok here’s something Panini should consider. They are going to be on the other side one of these days and they won’t like it. But another thing is this is not good for anybody. Even Panini. They are opening up a can of worms here. And that is all companies will start trademarking everything they can and we are the ones who will end up paying for it. I like what Panini is doing with cards but I don’t like companies owning something exclusive. It is not good for competition and not good for the Hobby because we will again be the ones paying for it. Panini is rising to the top. They are going to be the top company. They don’t need to do this. What goes around comes around!

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