Panini Asks Judge for Restraining Order Over Autographs

Attorneys for Panini America have asked a federal judge to issue a temporary restraining order that would bar Art Of The Game from selling or marketing anything related to Lakers’ star Kobe Bryant.

The papers, filed in May, are part of a campaign by the trading card and memorabilia maker to force a southern California business from selling or marketing a line of Bryant merchandise.

Panini had filed suit more than two months ago after its business manager bought an item at the company’s Staples Center kiosk.

Panini claims to have an exclusive arrangement with Bryant and says in its lawsuit that the Bryant items being sold by Art Of The Game aren’t genuine.  Art Of The Game fired back last month, filing its own suit.  Art of the Game sought unspecified damages from Panini in U.S. District Court, saying the publicity over the suit and false claims that its autographs weren’t real have caused them “irreparable damage and harm” to the company and the “personal and professional reputations” of its owners, Harlan Werner, Daniel Crosby and Jerald Gibbs.  The company cited evidence that Bryant signed items for one of its representatives on more than one occasion and its previous autograph deals with Joe Namath, Sandy Koufax and Muhammad Ali.

“I have not knowingly signed anything for Art of the Game or for anyone purporting to represent Art of the Game,” Bryant stated in a  declaration signed when the Lakers were in Dallas May 6 for an NBA Western Conference playoff game.  “I have never met anyone who I believed to be affiliated with Art of the Game.”

In addition, the three-time NBA champion specifically cites the dual-signed photo being sold by Art of the Game that features Bryant and Clippers’ star Blake Griffin, stating it doesn’t contain his actual signature, another claim Art of the Game refutes.

Bryant says if Art of the Game is allowed to continue selling and marketing its signed Bryant items, there is a “strong likelihood of confusion” in the marketplace.

However, more court documents obtained by Sports Collectors Daily and filed June 30 indicate the two sides are working on a settlement.

Panini attorney Alexander T. Gruft told the court that between June 22 and June 29, “multiple” emails were exchanged between Panini CEO Mark Warsop and Werner, the president of Art of the Game about “a final resolution of the litigation”.   The two sides were scheduled to discuss the matter last Friday in Texas.