Lebron James puts Nick Saban on notice for Copyright and Trademark Infringement

 Photo: UnSplash/ Edgar Chaparro

Photo: UnSplash/Edgar Chaparro

If you know me then you know 1. I'm from Cleveland and 2. I'm a HUGE Alabama football fan (my dad is from a town near Mobile, Ala)  so it broke my heart to hear LeBron's camp slapped my beloved University of Alabama with an Infringement Notice that smelled heavily of a Cease & Desist (although they deny it is a cease and desist) for releasing a digital series called "Shop Talk" strikingly similar to "The Shop" released by LeBron's Uninterrupted platform.

Here are the details and clips of both shows from ESPN, Alabama, and UnInterrupted:

[In April]  the official Twitter account for Alabama football released a trailer for "Shop Talk," with Alabama alumnus Julio Jones joining Saban and other football players for an off-the-cuff roundtable discussion in a barbershop setting.
[While in March] James...released two installments of the web series "The Shop"... featuring the Cavs star with friends, business associates, and sports and pop culture figures having free-flowing conversations while getting haircuts.

In a review of the potential legal issues surrounding not just the potential copyright infringement of the overall concept but arguments for trademark infringement of the associated branding elements Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP noted that:

In The Shop, the scissors point up, but in Shop Talk, the scissors point down. During The Shop, the same graphic appears in the corner. But in Shop Talk, the graphic, even in the first episode that appeared in the corner read “Bama Cuts,” in caps, still separated by scissors with the red A.

The Pillsbury review also notes that U of Alabama has since changed the name of the series to Bama Cuts and that to my surprise Uninterrupted hadn't actually even filed for copyright registration of the series at the time the infringement notice went out. So all in all without registration of the work and Bama's willing rebranding of the series in my opinion we aren't really left with much wind to support a definite legal claim here should Lebron's team move forward with a suit. It will be very interesting to see if anything else develops from this. However, here's what YOU the digital video creative should learn from this scenario:

  • REGISTER YOUR WORK WITH THE COPYRIGHT OFFICE
  • REGISTER YOUR ASSOCIATED BRAND ELEMENTS WITH THE US TRADEMARK OFFICE
  • YOU DON'T ALWAYS HAVE TO BRING OUT THE BIG GUNS TO ENFORCE YOUR RIGHTS 
  • PRE-EMPTIVE ENFORCEMENT IS A WAY TO PRESERVE YET ESTABLISHED BRAND RIGHTS

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