NBA Properties is countersuing a New Jersey company that sells custom sports jerseys designed to for autographs.
Hall of Fame Sports Memorabilia, incorporated in Delaware but with an office in Mullica Hill, NJ, filed a federal lawsuit in October after NBA Properties reported them to eBay for trademark violations and selling counterfeit goods. HOFSM claimed its products don’t violate league trademarks and that the NBA’s move to end its listing privileges, one that was granted by eBay, had significantly damaged its ability to make money.
“Custom sports jerseys have been part of the sports memorabilia market since long before HOFSM began selling them in 2012,” HOFSM’s lawyers claimed. “They are generally accepted and understood among consumers to be collectible items that are distinct from NBA-licensed jerseys, and there is no likelihood that consumers of collectible sports apparel will be confused or led to believe that HOFSM’s custom jerseys are made by or affiliated with the NBA.”
Last month, attorneys for NBA Properties answered that suit with a counterclaim, alleging trademark infringement and unfair competition.
In a strongly worded 37-page claim, the league called HOFSM’s NBA jerseys “knock offs” that are “intentionally designed to confuse the consuming public and fans.”
“Many of the Knock-off Jerseys do more than merely incorporate the Team Color Schemes; they closely mimic the layout of the colors as they appear on official NBA team jerseys and the overall design of the official jerseys,” the NBA’s legal team wrote.
HOFSM’s suit against NBA Properties stated that its eBay listings included a lengthy disclaimer, stating that the jerseys are “autographable collectible items” rather than “affiliated with or connected to any professional sports organization.” The NBA disagreed, citing HOFSM’s use of the NBA and team names in its online listings as well as social media posts.
“HOFSM is deliberately free riding on the success of the NBA Jersey Trade Dress and trading—without a license or permission—on the substantial goodwill associated with the NBA Jersey Trade Dress,” the countersuit claims.
NBA Properties is asking the court to stop HOFSM from distributing, marketing and selling its basketball jerseys. They’re also asking for any remaining inventory to be surrendered and for damages and court costs.
Attorneys for both sides are scheduled to convene January 30 to “focus counsel’s attention on the issues actually in dispute and arrive at a schedule to manage discovery, ” according to documents filed in U.S. District Court in Camden, NJ on Tuesday.