Major League Baseball sues trading card company Upper Deck
By Jonathan Stempel Jonathan Stempel – Mon Feb 1, 5:06 pm ET
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Major League Baseball has sued Upper Deck Co, accusing it of trademark infringement for using its logos on trading cards without permission.
The lawsuit was filed six months after the sport awarded rival Topps Co a multi-year agreement to become its exclusive trading card maker. Topps has sold baseball cards since 1952.
Upper Deck had no immediate comment on the lawsuit, which was filed in Manhattan federal court. The company is based in Carlsbad, California.
In its complaint, Major League Baseball said Upper Deck has distributed unauthorized "Signature Stars" and "Ultimate Collection" lines of trading cards, and "is on the verge" of distributing several other unauthorized card lines.
It said Upper Deck's cards improperly feature various sport and team logos, and that some 2010 packaging featuring New York Yankee shortstop Derek Jeter may confuse consumers because of its similarity to authorized packaging used in 2009.
"Upper Deck's current conduct is reflective of a pattern of utter disrespect for the contractual and intellectual property rights of those from whom it licenses valuable trademarks," the complaint said. The company remains in default of more than $2.4 million it owes Major League Baseball, it added.
Major League Baseball seeks to halt sales of unauthorized cards, and also seeks triple and punitive damages.
Topps last year settled a lawsuit in which it accused Upper Deck Co of stealing its designs for baseball cards. Terms of that settlement were not disclosed.
Based in New York, Topps was bought in 2007 by former Walt Disney Co chief Michael Eisner's Tornante Co and private equity firm Madison Dearborn Partners LLC.
The case is Major League Baseball Properties Inc v. Upper Deck Co, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 10-732.