SBD/10/Law Politics

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         Last night, ABC's Dick Schaap reported that in next week's
    NATIONAL LAW JOURNAL, three specialists in intellectual property
    law will outline their belief that athletes have rights to "own
    and license their moves and images."   Schaap:  "Just as Pat
    Riley collects royalties on the words 'Three-Peat,' which he
    coined and copyrighted,  just as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has applied
    for a trademark for his 'Sky Hook' logo -- sooner or later,
    athletes will seek to patent their moves."  Attorney Robert
    Kramer:  "Because sports is such big business, I think it can't
    not happen."  Attorney Robert Kunstadt:  "We determined that for
    many kinds of moves that are novel and creative, you could get
    protection."  Examples: Pete Rose's head-first slide and an NFL
    player's touchdown celebration (ABC, 5/9).

    Print | Tags: ABC, Law and Politics, NFL, Walt Disney

         The MLBPA has been sued by Tampa-based Mike Schechter
    Associates, Inc., its non-exclusive group licensing agent since
    '77.  The lawsuit, filed in NY Supreme Court in February, alleges
    that the MLBPA -- through the actions of MLBPA Exec Dir Donald
    Fehr and Dir of Licensing Judy Heeter -- "breached its agency
    agreement with MSA, tortiously interfered with MSA's business and
    business relationships, and engaged in various schemes to
    intimidate MSA, deprive MSA of rightfully-earned commissions and
    exert undue control over licensees."  MSA, which earns a 25%
    commission from MLBPA for all gross income from licensing deals
    entered into by the company, claims to have generated over $100M
    in revenues -- securing contracts with such companies as Burger
    King, Coca-Cola, Kraft, McDonald's, Pizza Hut, Pinnacle Brands,
    Sony and Sega (MSA).
         A CLOSER LOOK:  According to the complaint, much of the
    dispute stems from a paragraph in the original agency agreement
    signed by MSA Founder/President Mike Schechter and then-MLBPA
    Exec Dir Marvin Miller in June '77.  The so- called "evergreen
    provision" establishes MSA's 25% cut and  contains language which
    could be interpreted to allow a continuing commission -- even on
    license "extensions, renewals, replacements and substitutions"
    entered into after the termination of the agency agreement.  In
    May '89, this provision was allegedly modified, reducing MSA's
    commission to 10% for certain post-January '89 licensing deals.
    The complaint asserts that MLBPA has breached the agreement by
    unlawfully attempting to circumvent or eliminate the "evergreen
    provision," impede MSA's normal business routine and dilute its
    general powers.  MSA is seeking compensatory and punitive damages
    in excess of $1M (THE DAILY).
         THE CHARGE:  Schechter told THE DAILY his main concern is
    that MLBPA desired to cut back or eliminate MSA's commission
    while still keeping its other regular business arrangements.  He
    said he was "saddened" to file the lawsuit after a "very
    successful" 20-year relationship with MLBPA.  He also made an
    analogy to "intimidation tactics" used by the union against MLB
    owners during the strike (THE DAILY).
         THE RESPONSE:  Heeter told THE DAILY that she, too, was
    "saddened" by the collapse of such a "long and cordial"
    affiliation.  She said the union was "stunned" by the filing of
    the suit, and "even more stunned by its viciousness."  Heeter,
    who revealed that the MLBPA had officially terminated its agency
    association with MSA effective May 3 (following the required 60-
    days written notice), stated that the organizations had been
    trying to "transition" in preparation for the day when Schechter
    "would not be able or willing" to serve as an agent for MLBPA.
    Heeter:  "We did not want to terminate our relationship.  We
    wanted to change by mutual agreement."  Heeter added that the
    MLBPA was not planning to hire a new licensing agent, but rather
    was working towards a "fully integrated marketing program in-
    house."  She said the MSA lawsuit will "precipitate much sooner
    what we were trying to do for a while" (THE DAILY).

    Print | Tags: Coca-Cola, Acushnet, Law and Politics, McDonalds, MLB
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