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Filed in a U.S. District Court in California, the lawsuit alleges that Leonard designed the signature “Klaw” logo shortly after he entered the NBA in 2011 by tracing his “notably large hand” and drawing his initials inside the figure. The logo was “an extension” of designs and drawings Leonard had made since he was in college.
“Several years later, as part of an endorsement dealt with Nike, Leonard allowed Nike to use on certain merchandise the logo he created while Leonard continued to use the logo on non-Nike goods,” the lawsuit says. “Unbeknownst to Leonard and without his consent, Nike filed an application for copyright registration of his logo and false represented in the application that Nike had authored the logo.”
Leonard, who now has an endorsement deal with Nike rival New Balance, plans to use the logo on his own line of branded apparel and for marketing at charity events, according to the suit. His contract with Nike expired last September.
Nike is said to have blocked his attempts to use the design. Leonard is seeking a court order that establishes him as the logo’s original designer and owner.
A Nike representative declined to address on the lawsuit, noting that the company does not comment on pending litigation.
Portland Business Journal was first to report the lawsuit.
With Leonard set to hit the free agent market after this season, the battle of the “Klaw” logo appears to have become a potential bargaining chip in the bid for his services. The Los Angeles Clippers inquired about the possibility of acquiring the logo from Nike on Leonard’s behalf, ESPN reported.
Leonard’s Raptors are currently tied 1-1 with the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals. Game 3 of the league’s championship round is set to tip off on Wednesday night.