Kawhi Leonard filed a lawsuit against Nike Monday claiming the sports apparel giant presented a logo he had created as being authored by them.
The Toronto Raptors forward filed the documents June 3 in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California, according to ESPN, which obtained the court documents.
The filing states that not long after Leonard was drafted into the NBA in 2011, he “authored a unique logo that included elements that were meaningful and unique to him.”
“Leonard traced his notably large hand, and, inside the hand, drew stylized versions of his initials ‘KL’ and the number that he had worn for much of his career, ‘2,’” the filing continues. “The drawing Leonard authored was an extension and continuation of drawings he had been creating since early in his college career.”
Additionally, the filing alleges that Leonard allowed the logo, known as the “Klaw” logo, to be used “on certain merchandise … while Leonard continued to use the logo on non-Nike goods” several years later. However, the docs state, “unbeknownst to Leonard and without his consent, Nike filed an application for copyright registration of his logo and falsely represented in the application that Nike had authored the logo.”
The filing goes on to state that Leonard plans to use the “Klaw” logo for clothing lines, footwear and with charity events and sports camps, yet such actions were opposed by Nike. As such, Leonard seeks to regain control over the logo he created while he had an endorsement partnership with Jordan Brand Nike subsidiary, which he was part of before declining to extend his contract and signing on with New Balance as a sponsor last fall, according to SBNation.
Nike and Leonard rolled out the logo in 2014. At the time, Leonard told Nice Kicks, “I came up with the idea of incorporating my initials in this logo.”
“I give the Jordan Brand team all the credit, because I’m no artist at all,” Leonard continued in that interview. “They refined it and made it look better than I thought it would ever be, and I’m extremely happy with the final version.”
The ESPN-obtained court documents state that after Leonard went back and forth with Nike over the last several months concerning the use of the logo, of which Leonard claims he “shared his original work of authorship with family and friends, solicited the advice and expertise of a creative designer, received comments and suggestions, and made modifications to his design.”
He claims he last heard from Nike in March. The footwear brand allegedly told him, “it owns all intellectual property rights in the Leonard Logo and demanding that Leonard immediately cease and desist from what Nike claimed was the unauthorized use of the Leonard Logo.”
As for what Leonard seeks from the litigation, he wants the court to name him the sole author of the logo and state that his use of his logo doesn’t interfere with Nike’s privileges, including “without limitation any rights Nike may claim to possess with respect to the Leonard Logo.” Plus, Leonard wants it declared that Nike committed fraud on the Copyright Office by registering the “Klaw” logo, as well as “any such other and further relief as this Court deems just and proper.”
When reached for comment, Nike said in an email to Atlanta Black Star it “does not comment on pending litigation.”
This suit follows a report from The New York Times that alleges the Los Angeles Clippers tried to buy a share of the rights to Leonard’s signature logo, which is allegedly still owned by Nike. The Clippers are said to be one of the top teams vying for Leonard when he becomes a free agent after this season. The forward has also been rumored to be eyeing the Los Angeles Lakers.