Nike scores against Reebok in Tebow case

Wed Apr 4, 2012 5:43pm EDT
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By Grant McCool

NEW YORK (Reuters) - 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.   Continued...

New York Jets quarterback Tim Tebow speaks at a news conference introducing him as a Jets at the team's training center in Florham Park, New Jersey March 26, 2012. Tebow was traded to the Jets from the Denver Broncos last week. REUTERS/Ray Stubblebine