Major League Baseball sued the Upper Deck baseball card company about a month ago for releasing baseball cards with team logos and stuff without having a license to do so. The case settled yesterday. All that’s missing from the settlement terms is a provision which requires Upper Deck’s CEO to be Bud Selig’s butler for the next ten years:
- Upper Deck pays MLB more than $2.4
million it owed on back debts. The suit was for $2.4 million. If you’re settling for the requested amount a month after the complaint was filed you have been pwned.
- Upper Deck pays MLB “a substantial
sum of monies” for the unlicensed cards it sold in 2010. The amount is confidential, but based on the other terms, it was probably a lot.
- Upper Deck agrees not to make any new sets of cards using “MLB logos, uniforms, trade dress, or Club color combinations.” Color combinations? I’ve got very little intellectual property law experience, but if someone has the rights to use his photo and everything, can they really get sued for putting out a card of, say, Nick Swisher with a simple navy and white border? If so, is MLB going to go after every blog, magazine, sports bar, advertisement and everything else that uses a team’s colors? Seems a bit much.
- Upper Deck agrees it will not airbrush, alter or block MLB marks in future products. Which is really sad, because I kinda miss cards like this one. And this one, on which people always miss the airbrushing for some strange reason. The last place were we get that kind of craftsmanship is when ESPN or Yahoo! change the players’ hats and jerseys in their little player-page headshots after they’re traded.
- Upper Deck must receive approval from MLB for the use of baseball
jerseys, pants, jackets, caps, helmets or catcher’s equipment in future
products featuring players. This too is harsh. So much so that I get the feeling MLB just put this one in the demand letter to see if Upper Deck would agree to it. They’re probably laughing now. If I was Upper Deck, however, I’d use this term to my advantage. Next year: baseball’s first all-nude card set. Now that Antonio Alfonseca is retired it’s probably safe enough to dip a toe into those waters.
Oh, and one last thing. The statement released by MLB:
“Our settlement in the case against Upper Deck is a clear and decisive
victory for Major League Baseball. Upper Deck will be unable to release baseball trading cards that
incorporate Major League Baseball’s intellectual property in the
future. The real winners today are the millions of fans who collect
baseball cards. They will be able to clearly identify official Major
League Baseball trading cards without any confusion.”
Last rule of a settlement: if you can’t get the other guy to agree to some sort of neutral joint statement that doesn’t have someone declaring victory, it is less a settlement than it is a total reaming. Come to think of it, Upper Deck should have just offered the butler thing and taken their chances with a jury if it didn’t work out.