The intersection of the NBA and Copyright law was put in the spotlight on November 20, 2018, when costume creation and design company Easter Unlimited filed suit in a New York Federal District Court against Boston Celtics star Terry Rozier for his alleged unauthorized use of the iconic Ghost Face® Mask from the 90’s cult horror film, Scream. The complaint claims Rozier used the mask as a mascot and main selling point for Rozier’s clothing line and other products. Rozier’s use of the Ghost Face® Mask came after he established the nickname “Scary Terry” during a great run in the 2017 NBA Playoffs. It is claimed that Rozier initially used the Jason Hockey Mask for his mascot, but, according to an interview with Rozier, he would later change from the hockey mask to the Ghost Face® Mask in order to call back the late 90’s horror flick.
NBA and Copyright Law … Is This Just the Beginning?
Easter Unlimited is a designer and manufacturer of holiday-themed costumes and products. The company claims to own both copyright and trademark registrations protecting the Ghost Face® Mask. The mask became iconic when it was licensed for use in the Wes Craven film Scream, which subsequently produced three sequels. The complaint filed in a New York Federal District Court claims that Rozier and his marketing team made many sales over various outlets since “Scary Terry” fever hit (“Scary Terry” is another potential trademark issue in the making) last year during the NBA Playoffs. Further, the complaint alleges that Rozier and his marketing team authorized many large online retailers to make sales of the allegedly infringing shirts using the Ghost Face design. In addition to the direct copyright and trademark infringement claims raised, Easter Unlimited is also claiming trademark counterfeiting and dilution by blurring.
This is a case to keep an eye on. If the case goes to court, it will be interesting to see how the court approaches the fame of the Ghost Face® Mask, given the standards set under the Lanham Act.
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