By Grant McCool
NEW YORK, April 4 Nike Inc beat its
rival Reebok International in court on Wednesday in a legal
pile-up over the use of popular National Football League
quarterback Tim Tebow's name and number on shirts of his new
team, the New York Jets.
A federal judge in New York converted a temporary order of
March 28 into a preliminary injunction stopping Reebok, a unit
of Germany's Adidas AG, from making, selling and
shipping Tebow's green Jets No. 15 jerseys and T-shirts.
Nike sued Reebok on March 27, arguing that it is authorized
and licensed to use Tebow's name on football-related products.
Reebok, Nike said, tried to capitalize on "short-lived intense
consumer appetite for such products" after Tebow's surprise
March 21 trade to the Jets from the Denver Broncos.
"Instead of Tim Tebow being associated with the Nike swoosh,
Reebok would be the beneficiary of the association" if further
production or sales of the apparel were not halted, U.S.
District Judge Kevin Castel ruled from the bench.
"This is a situation where money damages would not make Nike
whole," said the judge, who will preside over the litigation as
it continues between the sports apparel companies.
Tebow's No. 15 Broncos uniform had been among the NFL's
top-selling jerseys before his trade to the Jets. He moved when
the Broncos signed star quarterback Peyton Manning, who had
previously played for the Indianapolis Colts.
A January poll by Walt Disney Co's ESPN rated Tebow
the No. 1 favorite active professional athlete in the United
States. The 2007 Heisman Trophy winner, who played for the
University of Florida, is also an evangelical Christian who
prays on the football field in a pose known as "Tebowing."
Nike also said Reebok has no current agreement to sell
Tebow-related Jets products and that a Reebok merchandising
license with the NFL players union expired at the end of
February. Reebok argued that the company had the right under an
agreement with NFL Players Inc, the licensing arm of the NFL
Players Association (NFLPA), the players' union, to use names
and numbers of players changing teams during March.
As of April 1, Nike has an exclusive five-year contract with
the NFL to sell apparel for all 32 teams in the league. The
apparel was unveiled on Tuesday but won't be available until
"It is a minor hardship for New York Jets and Tim Tebow fans
to have to wait to get their jerseys," Castel said in his
Reebok said it made 6,000 jerseys and 25,000 T-shirts
bearing the logos of Jets and the NFL and the name and number of
Tebow. Of those, only about 400 jerseys had Reebok's name or
logo, the company said in court documents. The 25,000 T-shirts
and the remaining 5,600 jerseys did not have any Reebok
markings, the court documents said.
Reebok lawyer Julian Friedman told the judge there were
31,000 units at stake with total estimated revenues of $500,000
that cannot be sold.
The judge denied Nike lawyer Randolph Foster's request for
an order to destroy the merchandise. "It can't be sold so that's
not necessary," the judge said.
The case is Nike Inc v Reebok International, U.S. District
Court for the Southern District of New York No. 12-2275.