Sports Law

Manatt Argues for Jim Brown's Trademark Rights Before the Ninth Circuit

Electronic Arts' Madden NFL Video Games Challenged for Trademark Infringement

Author: Benjamin G. Shatz

Last Friday Manatt partner Ron Katz, the Chair of Manatt's Sports Law Practice Group, argued the case of Brown v. Electronic Arts before Judges Sidney Thomas and Jay Bybee of the Ninth Circuit and District Court Judge Gordon Quist sitting by designation. The case involves rapidly developing issues balancing the trademarks that athletes have in their personas with the First Amendment rights of video game manufacturers like Electronic Arts (EA).

This was the second time the case was argued, because one of the judges on the first panel, Pamela Rymer, passed away before a decision was reached. There has been broad interest in this and a similar case argued at the same time (Keller v. EA). Friend-of-the-Court briefs were submitted by the professional sports unions of the major sports, the NCAA, and major content providers.

This year the Ninth Circuit has publicly posted video of only 12 arguments. Eight of those were en banc arguments. Apart from Brown v. EA, and its companion case Keller v. EA, there are only two other non-en banc arguments to have video posted. The Brown video is linked here. It is at the cutting edge of this controversial legal area.

The topic of the use of athletes' images will be covered by a distinguished panel of speakers at the Manatt-sponsored Sports Law Symposium on September 6, 2012 at Santa Clara University.

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