$32 billion Nike refuses to let Kawhi Leonard be the master of his own identity
Kawhi Leonard is arguably a top 5 NBA player when fit.
Kawhi was not expected to be this good. Leonard wasn’t a top-10 draft pick and was considered a project, especially on offense. But under Gregg Popovich and the San Antonio Spurs, Leonard blossomed into a legit NBA superstar.
Kawhi then fell out with the Spurs and headlined a blockbuster trade to the Toronto Raptors. There, Leonard elevated his status, driving the underdog Raptors to an NBA championship. Leonard’s performances in the playoffs in particular were the stuff of legends.
A factor that Leonard owes a lot to while molding his game is his gigantic hands. Kawhi has held the moniker “The Klaw” due to his unbelievably large hands which are a predominant feature of his defensive highlight reels.
However, with “The Klaw” being unanimously attributed to Kawhi, does he own the Intellectual property over it?
This question was answered in court after a lawsuit involving Kawhi and Nike to whom he was contracted, at the earlier stages of his career.
Who owns the rights to the “Klaw”?
They might be Kawhi’s “Klaw”s but the law dictated otherwise. Leonard’s suit against Nike was decided in the early days of the pandemic. The decision proves to be a big blow to both Kawhi and New Balance. Both parties would have hoped to utilize the logo for their collaboration going forward.
Leonard claims that he himself designed the first draft version of the “Klaw” logo and that the brand’s experts perfected it. Kawhi gives “the Jordan Brand team all the credit” stating that he is “no artist at all”. However, as per Kawhi’s legal team, he still created the logo.
US District Court Judge Michael Mosman who presided over the case, however, viewed things differently. The view taken by Judge Mosman was that the logo submitted by Kawhi and the logo utilized commercially are meaningfully different.
This distinction means that Nike gets all creative credit over the logo and the rights of usage arising from the same.
Kawhi is the Klaw. Kawhi is signed by New Balance. But neither may sell products with the “Klaw” brand unless they purchase the rights or acquire Nike’s license for the same.
Nike, a $36 billion corporation is definitely unlikely to give up the brand to a competitor easily. New Balance may not give up without a fight, but this might be an expensive war for them to fight.
Will we see the “Klaw” in the market again?