MLB Suing Donruss Over Baseball Cards

Major League Baseball wants your 2009 Donruss baseball cards. Now.

Attorneys have been some of the trading card manufacturers’ best fans over the past year.

The latest round of legal wrangling involves Donruss. The Texas-based company is being sued by Major League Baseball Properties for trademark violations. Papers were filed last week in a U.S. District Court in New York.

MLBP is seeking damages equal to three times the amount of Donruss’ profits or MLBP’s damages, whichever is greater, punitive damages and recovery of its attorneys fees. They’re also asking Donruss to round up any remaining product and promotional materials and destroy them.

Donruss lost its MLB license in 2005, but came out with several products Donruss Threads card of Pete Rose containing baseball content this fall, including its Threads, Americana Sports Legends and Playoff Prime Cuts IV series. While MLB and team logos don’t appear on the cards, the league insists they violate its license agreements by depicting former Major Leaguers in the MLB "uniform trade dress" and other "visible and recognizable MLB Marks". MLBP also acts as licensing agent for Minor League Baseball. The Donruss products include images of those players.

The complaint states that because of falling revenues, Major League Baseball has not granted any additional licenses beyond its deals with Topps and Upper Deck. "In MLBP’s reasoned judgment, the trading card market is saturated and any new entrant would diminish the value of the entire market for MLBP," it reads.

MLBP states that it became aware of Donruss’ plans to release its "Threads" series on August 21 of last year and sent a letter advising the company to stop the project. Donruss did not, and MLBP says its "efforts to resolve the dispute amicably have failed".

The 2008 Donruss baseball products have been popular, with over 2400 lots currently available on eBay.

A copy of the suit appears below in its entirety: