Only in Hollywood? Superstar sues “Basketball Wife”(ex-girlfriend)

Posted by | May 03, 2011 | General | No Comments

According to the Hollywood Reporter’s Hollywood, Esq. blog (a wonderful source for off-the-wall intellectual property lawsuits), Miami Heat superstar, Chris Bosh filed suit yesterday in California District Court seeking to enjoin — and I quote — “the mother of his child,” Allison Mathis, from appearing in a VH1 reality show called Basketball Wives (mostly ex-wives and ex-girlfriends, it sounds like).  The suit allegedly also names television producer, Shed Media.

Basketball Wives is the brainchild of Shaquille O’Neal’s ex-wife, Shaunie O’Neal who’s its creator and executive producer.  According to her bio:

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Shaunie’s goal with her series was to shed light on the complex lives of the women who stand beside these larger-than-life professional athletes and to show that it’s not all glitz and glamour.

. . .

Having been married to one of the most famous basketball players of all time, Shaquille O’Neal, Shaunie is Queen Bee to the rest of the wives, who swarm to her for advice and guidance.

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According to Shed Media’s website:

[framed_box] . . . this series is about the insider life of the wives, girlfriends and a few ex-wives of some of the biggest ballers in the game.  These ladies live the life.  They drive the best cars, live in the biggest mansions, wear designer clothes and jewelry and only travel first class.  But living the high life is not all glamour.  In order to protect it, they have to deal with the jealousies and dramas of living in – and staying in – the inner circle.  They must also keep the groupies at bay while their husbands and boyfriends are traveling on the road for over six months of the year playing ball all the while wondering if their spouses are being faithful to them.[/framed_box]

So, were I a basketball superstar (or even a bench warmer), I too would not want my “story” revealed on this TV show.  But would I sue to stop it?  Might I risk damages for frivolous litigation as stated in the PTO’s recent report on trademark bullying?

Bosh’s claims apparently are based on trademark infringement, right of publicity and invasion of privacy (I was unable to locate the filing on PACER).  Though I haven’t yet seen Bosh’s Complaint, based on the theories he’s supposed to have asserted, I don’t see how his case is a winner.  But does that matter?

Well now, that depends on how far this case gets.  I presume there’s an indemnity clause in Ms. Mathis’ contract with Shed, so that it will be covering her defense as well.  I also presume Shed Media would rather focus its resources on TV production than litigation, thus this case may settle very quickly.  Then again, even though the settlement likely would be confidential, just the fact that it happened could set a bad precedent for Shed Media with basketball stars, so there long-range interests may require that Shed defend itself in this litigation. Either way, now that the case has been filed Shed will have to devote resources to resolving it.

You just never know what will cause people to file lawsuits.  Attorneys help their clients understand and evaluate risks, ideally avoiding those they cannot afford to take.  Even still, only the client can determine its risk tolerance.

About Lara

Lara Pearson is a trademark attorney with Exemplar, where she also serves as the firm's Sustainability Steward. Lara's legal practice focuses on trademark and copyright law, including: intellectual property audits; trademark search & clearance; trademark and copyright registration & maintenance; intellectual property transfers; transactional work; and dispute resolution, including litigation when necessary. Lara primarily represents other social enterprises -- those leveraging their businesses and brands as catalysts for positive social and environmental change. Such businesses engage in CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) to have a positive "triple bottom line" of people, planet and profit. As Exemplar's Sustainability Steward, Lara works with others in her law firm to measure and reduce the firm's carbon emissions and encourage engagement in social responsibility initiatives, including pro bono legal work and volunteering. Lara is a proud member of the Social Venture Network. Brand Geek is a member of 1% for the Planet and a Certified B Corporation, whose Incline Village office is certified under the regional Keep the Sierra Green program. Exemplar Companies is the most innovative professional services firm in the New Economy. Our unique, diversified expertise spans the disciplines of corporate law, business advisory, and capital/investment banking to better meet the needs of our high-potential customers. We have assembled a comprehensive suite of service to meet the complex issues facing companies in today’s challenging business environment. Our unique, holistic approach ensures the growth and success – and greatly increases the competitive advantage - of our customers. The Exemplar team is comprised of knowledgeable, highly skilled experts in a wide range of industries and disciplines. They work closely with our customers to provide trusted advice, incomparable support, expert guidance and the ultimate competitive advantage as they accelerate their businesses and position themselves to transform industries.

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