LeBron James’ Company Sued Over ‘More Than An Athlete’ Mark (4)

Feb. 18, 2020, 7:45 PM; Updated: Feb. 19, 2020, 12:12 AM

A Maryland youth development nonprofit sued LeBron James’ Uninterrupted LLC, Nike Inc., and ESPN in a Washington, D.C., federal court Tuesday for allegedly infringing its “I Am More Than An Athlete” trademark.

Game Plan Inc. began using the phrase before James adopted it in response to conservative commentator Laura Ingraham’s comments that he should “shut up and dribble” instead of talking politics, according to the complaint.

Game Plan runs programs dedicated to “educating the youth to ascend through the ranks of high school and college athletics and academics in order to attain professional level success whether in sports or otherwise.” It owns a federal trademark registration covering the use of “I Am More Than An Athlete” on t-shirts.

James’ company denied the complaint’s allegations in a statement. “The complaint filed by Game Plan today is meritless and contains numerous factual inaccuracies,” the company said. “Uninterrupted owns prior rights in and to the More Than An Athlete trademark.

James began using the phrase in 2018. But according to the complaint, a group of children from the Game Plan program attended a Washington Wizards game against James’ Cleveland Cavaliers in 2017, where they wore t-shirts with the phrase and met Wizards star John Wall courtside before the game.

“The attendance at the game gave Game Plan tremendous exposure, as it was able to gain attention from John Wall in front of his peers including the (arguably) most famous athlete in the world, as a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers, at the time, LeBron James,” the complaint says.

James’ media company uses the phrase on Nike-produced clothing including t-shirts, hats, hoodies, and sweatpants, the complaint says. Game Plan also named ESPN in the complaint for producing James’s “More Than An Athlete” TV series, and “NBA 2K” video game maker Take-Two Interactive Software Inc. for using the phrase in the game.

The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

Nike, ESPN, and Take-Two declined to comment.

Causes of Action: Federal trademark infringement and dilution, unfair competition, unjust enrichment.

Relief: Damages, injunctive relief, attorneys’ fees.

Attorney: Ryan L. Jones of Washington, D.C. represents Game Plan.

The case is Game Plan Inc. v. Uninterrupted LLC, D.D.C., No. 1:20-cv-00455, complaint filed 2/18/20.

(Updated with response from Uninterrupted LLC)

To contact the reporter on this story: Blake Brittain in Washington at bbrittain@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rob Tricchinelli at rtricchinelli@bloomberglaw.com; Steven Patrick at spatrick@bloomberglaw.com

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