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Volume 21 No. 1
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Sports Lawyers: Ayala Deutsch

Ayala Deutsch is a self-described legal geek. Consider that her first case as a lawyer centered on the design of a radiator.

“It was literally an argument over the design of radiators,” Deutsch said. “But the concept of protecting brands was really interesting to me and following that case, I developed a specialty.”

Today, Deutsch protects intellectual property a bit more exciting than heating elements in her job with the NBA.

Photo by: Steven Freeman / NBAE
Protecting the NBA’s brand takes an increasingly global and digital focus for Deutsch as she deals with intellectual property issues such as counterfeit merchandise that is being sold online and overseas.

“When I started at the NBA [in 1998] there was barely an Internet,” said the native New Yorker. “It took a single percentage of my time. Fast forward to 2012 and now it represents a high double-digit percentage of my time.”

Deutsch’s duties include preventing unauthorized use of NBA copyrights and protecting against the use of online platforms to sell counterfeit merchandise. She is a trademark legal expert and it’s an ever-evolving job given the NBA’s international reach. Consider that nobody had heard of Jeremy Lin until the middle of this season. But when “Linsanity” hit, Deutsch and her legal team were thrust into guarding against the sale of knock-off Lin merchandise all over the world.

“The biggest challenge is to keep ahead of the next trend in deploying your resources,” Deutsch said. “Our goal in intellectual property is to try to be ahead of the curve.”

— John Lombardo