Upper Deck has agreed to pay $2.4 million in unpaid debts and an undisclosed amount of money for selling 2010 baseball cards that Major League Baseball Properties claimed were in violation of its exclusive arrangement with Topps.
MLB announced the settlement late Wednesday. It had filed suit against Upper Deck last month after seeing the company's newly-released products. MLB claimed that several cards violated trademarks because of the use of logos, portions of logos and other uniform markings.
“Our settlement in the case against Upper Deck is a clear and decisive victory for Major League Baseball,” said Ethan Orlinsky, Senior Vice President and General Counsel, Major League Baseball Properties.
“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.”
The settlement states:
- Upper Deck will pay Major League Baseball Properties more than $2.4 million (the entire amount in dispute) for Upper Deck’s 2009 debts.
- Upper Deck will pay Major League Baseball Properties a substantial sum of monies for the unlicensed cards it sold in 2010. The specific sum of that payment is confidential as part of the settlement.
- Upper Deck has agreed not to issue any additional releases of infringing cards. Last year they issued 15 baseball card releases and there are currently only three infringing releases that are in distribution in 2010.
- Upper Deck agreed it will not make any new sets of cards using MLB logos, uniforms, trade dress, or Club color combinations.
- Upper Deck also agreed it will not airbrush, alter or block MLB marks in future products.
- 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.
The settlement comes just five weeks after Upper Deck settled another lawsuit filed by Konami in which it was accused of creating non-genuine Yu-Gi-Oh! cards and distributing them. Terms of that settlement were also confidential, but Upper Deck's second of three payments to settle the dispute was due this month.
By agreeing to settle with MLB before the scheduled April 19 trial date, Upper Deck will apparently have to decide whether it will have enough time to design and create any new baseball products that don't violate the terms of the agreement..
Upper Deck issued a news release Wednesday night stating that "scheduled baseball product launches already in the pipeline for 2010 will not be released."
However, Upper Deck can continue to sell three recently released baseball products currently on store shelves: 2009 Signature Stars, 2009 Ultimate Collection and 2010 Upper Deck Series One. The three issues were at the crux of MLB's complaint.
“Upper Deck is pleased with the settlement including the amount the company paid as it relates to the trading cards released in 2010,” said Jason Masherah, Upper Deck’s director of Sports Brands. “As a company, we are changing the direction of Upper Deck’s baseball products going forward. We are looking forward to creating fresh and innovative set content that will continue to get collectors excited.”
"Great cards of great players have always been the cornerstone of Upper Deck products,” added Upper Deck Founder and CEO Richard McWilliam. “We’ll just have to see how innovative and creative we can become now.”