Luck Faces Intellectual Property Lawsuit Heading Into Training Camp

By Colin Tansits, a sophomore at Temple University’s School of Communications and Theater.

As the NFL’s Organized Team Activities (OTA’s) begin and rookie training camps end, No. 1 overall Draft pick Andrew Luck is going to have more on his mind than just football.

Luck is being sued by Leaf Trading Cards.

Why is the good mannered, highly intelligent signal caller being sued?

Well that is a little less obvious.

The Leaf Trading Card Company has produced a few Andrew Luck trading cards, using a picture of the quarterback taken during the Army All-America Game in 2008.

Luck and his inner circle sent out a cease and desist letter to Leaf to stop the company from using and profiting from Luck’s image. With the letter having no legal effect, it simply served as a warning to the trading card company.

Now the company is suing Luck. Leaf is seeking a judicial declaration that it has the ability to produce and sell trading cards taking during the 2008 Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio.

But again the question becomes, why is the lawsuit being filed at all?

Mark Yochum, a professor at Duquesne University’s School of Law and professional responsibility expert, shed some light on the situation.

Yochum explained that the rights to profiting from Luck’s picture deal with the contractual obligations given to Leaf Trading Cards.

“Luck can only profit from Luck unless he has contractually granted the use of his image,” Yochum said.

Prof. Yochum

Being that the picture was taken at a bowl game though, Yochum speculated that the rights for Luck’s image depend on the rights given to them for that specific game.

If Leaf’s contractual provisions grant them access to images taken during that bowl game in 2008, then by all means what they are doing is legal.

But to Yochum, the reason why the card company is suing Luck is to prove actual rights to use the image.

“[Leaf Trading Cards] are suing for what is in the nature of a declaratory judgment,” Yochum explained. “That the trading card company has valid contractual rights.”

The topic of collegiate athletes’ image being used on a public stage has become an increasingly large issue.

Video games that portray NCAA athletes, or jersey sales showing a student-athlete’s number earn no profit towards that player. This can turn into a serious issue, and some extremists in sports have called for collegiate athletes to be compensated.

These issues, along with Luck’s current legal mess all lead back to the one common area: intellectual property rights.

Who has the right to profit from an athlete when the athlete can’t?

That question, though much larger in scale, is directly related to Luck’s case and when (if ever) the question is answered problems like that of Andrew Luck’s lawsuit will disappear.

Yochum cogitates that Luck will win the case, because the contract with the bowl from which the controversial picture was taken didn’t grant any post-bowl image rights.

As Luck tries to study playbooks and offenses, the coaches screaming in his ear won’t be his only headache for this summer.

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