The National Basketball Association (“NBA”) has been accused of multiple counts of intellectual property infringement by a New York based clothing line.  Coogi, a well-known sweater brand has taken issue with NBA uniforms that debuted last year and has filed copyright, trade dress, and trademark infringement claims against the NBA for “City Edition” jerseys worn by the Brooklyn Nets.

Coogi, a clothing brand that markets colorful, knit sweaters that have bold stripes, patterns, and linework, claims that the Brooklyn Nets’ City Edition jersey uses nearly identical prints that are showcased in Coogi’s sweaters.  For example, Coogi claims that last year’s City Edition jersey takes specific patterns from the Coogi line such as “Ricotta” and “Pea Soup” and incorporates it into the border and fringes of the Nets’ basketball jerseys.

Coogi Sues When Nets Claim City Edition Jerseys Are Biggie-Inspired

In the suit, Coogi explains how its colorful knit patterns are representative of Brooklyn culture. Colorful knitwear sweaters like Coogi’s were made iconic by Bill Cosby during his television series run and the knitwear became even more associated with Brooklyn when late Brooklyn rap-star, Notorious B.I.G., also known as Biggie Smalls (“Biggie”), stated he was an avid fan of the Coogi line, even going as far as to reference the sweater brand in one of his songs.  Thus, Coogi argues that when the Brooklyn Nets introduced their City Edition jerseys and called them “Biggie-inspired,” the NBA purposely used the designs to trade off of Coogi’s proprietary designs.

In its complaint, Coogi further asserts that the designs are protected by copyright and trade dress law. Specifically, Coogi asserts in its trade dress complaint that its specific colorful vertical cables, sections, and intricate designs serve essentially serve the same function as Coogi’s brand or logo would.  Coogi argues that the patterns have become so recognizable in connection with its brand that the Brooklyn Nets knew exactly what they were doing when releasing the City Edition jerseys.

NBA Claims City Edition Jerseys Are Sufficiently Different from Coogi Sweaters

The NBA, however, has pushed back.  The NBA argues that the jerseys are not similar to Coogi’s line of sweaters.  In support of this argument, the NBA has noted that the jerseys’ stripe colors, positioning, and direction are all different.

While the standard to find copyright and trademark liability are different, with copyright infringement requiring substantial similarity and trademark infringement requiring likelihood of consumer confusion, it will be interesting to see whether the NBA settles or is able to successfully navigate its way out of Coogi’s claims.  In the meantime, Coogi is seeking money damages as well as an immediate and permanent injunction to have the NBA cease all of the related wares listed under the complaint.

About the firm:

Klemchuk LLP is a litigation, intellectual property (IP), and business law firm, located in Dallas, TX.  The firm offers comprehensive legal services including litigation and enforcement of all forms of IP as well as registration and licensing of patents, trademarks, trade dress, and copyrights.  The firm also provides a wide range of technology, Internet, e-commerce, and business services including business planning, formation, and financing, mergers and acquisitions, business litigation, data privacy, and domain name dispute resolution.  Additional information about the trademark law firm and its trademark attorneys may be found at www.klemchuk.com.

Klemchuk LLP hosts Culture Counts, a blog devoted to the discussion of law firm culture and corporate core values with frequent topics about positive work environment, conscious capitalism, entrepreneurial management, positive workplace culture, workplace productivity, and corporate core values.