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Clippers’ Kawhi Leonard on the hook for copyright damages after suing Nike for ‘Klaw’ logo


Kawhi Leonard recently lost his copyright case to Nike, after a federal judge ruled that his Claw (Klaw) logo design did not commit an infraction on Nike’s rights and that the company committed fraud on the Copyright Office by registering the logo. The Los Angeles Clippers star claimed the logo was his design, a battle he’s tried to fight for more than a year now.

The loss, however, is not all that Leonard will have to take home, as Nike’s counterclaim could cost him much more than just the rights to his logo, according to Darren Heitner, Chief Vision Officer of Heitner Legal.

On Monday, May 18. the Oregon federal court upheld claims that the Nike contract Leonard previously signed had all the proper validity to use the logo. It also highlighted a portion of the star’s contract in which Leonard fully acknowledged that Nike exclusively owns all right, title, and interest of the intellectual property.

“[Leonard] acknowledges that NIKE exclusively owns all rights, title and interest in and to the NIKE Marks and that NIKE shall exclusively own all rights, title and interest in and to any logos, trademarks, service marks, characters, personas, copyrights, shoe or other product designs, patents, trade secrets or other forms of intellectual property created by NIKE . . . or [Leonard] in connection with this Contract[.]”

This would force Leonard not only to cease the pursuit of his logo but also backpedal after using it after his contract with Nike expired.

Kawhi Leonard had claimed that the use of “in connection with” is ambiguous, but the court found that defense to be unconvincing and noted that stipulations of the design being created in connection with the Nike contract is sound contractual language.

Most importantly, the court ruled decisively on Nike’s favor — noting Leonard had no right to the use of the design:

“In short, Nike collaborated with Mr. Leonard to create the Claw Design which it affixed to new Nike merchandise, which Leonard wore and endorsed, and which Nike sold. Not only was this activity done “in connection with” the Nike Contract, it represents the whole point of the Nike Contract.”

Leonard’s camp might find itself cornered after entering the wrong alley. Not only did the 28-year-old file a claim under the wrong jurisdiction but he will also have to provide proof that he was allowed to use the logo after his contract expired or risk facing copyright infringement damages and several violations of his contract.