California Intellectual Property Blog


Kawhi Leonard Loses Nike Copyright Case

Los Angeles – Los Angeles Clippers star Kawhi Leonard has lost his copyright infringement case against Nike relating to his famous Klaw logo that resembles his hand.

Leonard shared his logo idea with Nike in 2011 with a rough sketch.  Nike and Leonard then worked together to create the logo. The player offered the design idea that Nike improved upon, and this logo was used and endorsed by both parties for years. When their contract ended in 2018, however, Leonard claimed he had the right to continue using the design and that Nike committed fraud through copyright registration of the logo.

In response to Leonard’s lawsuit, Nike filed several counterclaims which included accusations of breach of contract and copyright infringement. The outcome of these claims rested on whether Leonard’s initial input made him the sole owner of the logo in question. After reviewing the evidence in question, a judge decided this answer was “no.”

While Nike admits that Leonard shared a rough logo sketch with them back in 2011, they dispute his claims of ownership and complete artistic control of the design. They say their rendition of the logo is both sufficiently different and superior to Leonard’s original concept.

When claims of copyright infringement are litigated, it basically comes down to how similar two original works are. There’s no denying that there are similarities between the two designs. Each consists of a handprint along with letters and numbers that represent Kawhi Leonard.

Nike clearly used Leonard’s design idea to come up with their own, but the placement of certain elements show that they’re separate and distinctive designs. In the original sketch, for instance, the letters and numbers were confined to only one part of the hand. In Nike’s rendition, however, the entire hand is made up of these design features.  Regardless, the agreement that Leonard signed with Nike provided that Nike would exclusively own all right, title, and interest to the intellectual property.  Leonard claimed that the “in connection with” language in the contract was ambiguous, to no avail.

Nike’s initial victory came on April 22 – when U.S. District Judge Michael Mosman dismissed Leonard’s lawsuit with prejudice. The motion confirmed Nike’s ownership, and less than one month later, the judge reaffirmed his decision when granting one of Nike’s counterclaims.

Although Leonard’s loss is certainly damaging, his legal troubles are far from over.  Leonard continued to utilize the logo after his contract with Nike ended, so he is exposed to a copyright infringement claim by Nike.


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