Panini America continues its aggressive pursuit against trademark infringement, particularly when it comes to its “Rated Rookie” logo.
For the fourth time in six months, attorneys for the Dallas-based company filed a federal lawsuit. And for the second time in two weeks, a Pennsylvania man is being sued for trademark infringement.
The lawsuit, filed Christmas Eve in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and obtained by SC Daily, accuses Rocco Tenaglia, of Reading, Pennsylvania, of federal trademark infringement, unfair competition under the Lanham Act, unfair competition and deceptive trade practices, unjust enrichment, common law unfair competition and injury to Panini’s business reputation.
The Lanham Act, passed by Congress on July 5, 1946, is a federal law that governs trademarks, service marks and unfair competition. It went into effect July 5, 1947.
In its latest lawsuit, Panini is also seeking damages, injunctive relief and attorney’s fees.
The suit, and the three that preceded it, zero in on cards featuring New Orleans Pelicans rookie Zion Williamson. The litigation against Tenaglia focuses on the defendant’s alleged use of Panini’s “Rated Rookie” trademark, according to court documents.
Paul Lesko, an attorney and collector, tweeted his belief that Panini may be turning up the heat against alleged trademark infringers because of its deal with Williamson.
“For those playing at home, Panini’s other suits also focus (at least in part) on Zion Williamson cards,” Lesko tweeted Monday. “Makes me suspect part of Panini’s contract with Williamson might have a requirement to more aggressively police alleged Williamson infringers.”
The first lawsuit by Panini, filed in June in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, was against an entity billing itself as Kollectorsvault. Two months ago, Panini sued Shad Wing, of Kansas City, Missouri, in U.S. District Court for the District of Western Missouri, alleging trademark infringement, unfair competition and deceptive trade practices.
In mid-December, Panini sued Jamie Nucero, of Pennsylvania. Panini alleged infringement over its “Rated Rookie” trademark, particularly for up-and-coming NBA stars like Zion Williamson. Panini also alleged in its complaint that other trademarks, such as “Rookie Ticket,” “Contenders” and similar variants, were being infringed by Nucero.
The lawsuit alleges that Tenaglia is advertising and selling sports cards featuring the “Rated Rookie” designation and similar variations, “all without the authority, consent or approval” of Panini.
In the lawsuit, Panini said it sent a written notice to Tenaglia to stop using the alleged infringing marks to sell the cards on sites such as eBay (where Tenaglia’s handle is “roccoten,” according to court documents). However, Panini alleges that Tenaglia has continued to market and sell the cards “through one or more eBay accounts.”
The lawsuit contained exhibits that allegedly show how Tenaglia infringed on Panini’s “Rated Rookie” trademark.
One exhibit includes a “Rated Rookie” card of Williamson decked out in a New Orleans Saints football uniform. His No. 1 jersey was an obvious nod to Williamson being chosen first in this year’s NBA draft.
A second exhibit presented by Panini depicts a “2019 Zion Williamson Rated Rookie,” custom card, with Williamson wearing a Pelicans jersey.
Both cards were listed on eBay for $2.50 per card, with buyers also given the option of buying the cards “in bulk” — selling four or more cards at $1.50 apiece.
Panini also claims Tenaglia’s alleged actions have “intentionally infringed upon the Panini trademarks by using the infringing marks.”