The smooth transition of NFL jersey production responsibilities from Reebok to Nike hit a snag this week with the filing of a lawsuit by Nike against its rival. Nike filed suit in federal court against Reebok over Reebok’s swift production of Tim Tebow-New York Jets jerseys after Tebow’s trade to the Jets. The trade announcement on March 21st left an extremely tight window of time for Reebok to capitalize on the deal before its contract with the NFL expires on April 1, 2012.
While Reebok’s deal with the NFL is technically still in place until April 1, Nike alleges that the jerseys are not valid licensed merchandise as authentic jerseys require two license agreements – one with the NFL to use its marks and one with the NFLPA (National Football League Players Association) or the individual player to use a specific players name. Nike has had an endorsement deal with Tebow in place since his graduation from the University of Florida in 2010. In appears that in this case, Reebok does not have a deal with either the NFLPA or Tebow that would allow it to use his name on its jerseys.
With the April 3rd premier of Nike’s NFL jersey collection quickly approaching, Nike asserts that Reebok’s hastily produced Tebow-Jets jerseys will negatively impact the demand for new Tebow-Jets apparel that has been steadily growing since the trade was announced. Nike is seeking injunctive relief to stop the sales of the jerseys along with the compensatory and punitive damages. While being first to market may earn Reebok a quick profit in this situation, if the Court decides in Nike’s favor, the quick move could end up being a costly one.
On Friday, March 30, Reebok was ordered to stop producing the jerseys.