The National Football League’s reigning MVP has filed suit against the world’s largest online retailer.
Attorneys for Lamar Jackson, the wildly popular starting quarterback for the Baltimore Ravens, filed a complaint against Amazon and one of its subsidiaries in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida. Jackson’s lawsuit alleges that Amazon has unlawfully infringed on his right of publicity by deliberately and falsely advertising and endorsing unlicensed apparel that uses the quarterback’s name, image, and persona without his authorization. The complaint contains a demand for a jury trial, and the case is set to be presented before Judge Roy Altman.
Lamar Jackson’s suit specifically alleges that Amazon infringed on his right to publicity by offering for sale a number of unlicensed clothing items that contain phrases that are commonly associated with him. These phases include Jackson’s now-famous quote, “not bad for a running back,” which he jokingly said in a post-game press conference after throwing for 324 yards and 5 touchdowns (in 3 quarters) against Miami last September.
Though Amazon has since removed the items in question from its online marketplace, a host of other listings were flagged in Jackson’s complaint that he also alleges infringed on his right to publicity – such as shirts in Ravens colors bearing the words “Quarterback #8” and “Lamarvelous.”
The motive behind Jackson’s lawsuit is grounded in the fact that the Ravens’ quarterback owns his own apparel company, Era 8 Apparel. Furthermore, Jackson contends that unauthorized listings of similar knockoff items on Amazon have undercut his profits. In fact, Era 8 Apparel actually sells items of which were nearly identical, but unauthorized copies for sale on Amazon up until the time Jackson filed suit.
Making this case more interesting is the fact that some of the items were marketed as, “sold and shipped by Amazon.com,” meaning that not all of the listings involve third-party sellers, but Amazon itself. In light of this, Jackson’s complaint asserts that Amazon, itself, is culpable and should be held responsible for his purported damages.
The suit was brought as a diversity action and Jackson’s attorneys pled their claims under both Florida state law and federal law. Under Florida law, the right of publicity is both statutory and a product of stare decisis. It prohibits the commercial use of another person’s name, image, likeness, and related identifying traits without express consent. Jackson’s federal law claim is asserted pursuant to the Lanham Act, the trademark statute aimed at protecting businesses from competitors that practice misleading advertising and/or labeling.
Jackson seeks three remedies against Amazon, should the case go to trial and he prevails; The first demand that Amazon is ordered to conduct an accounting of all sales of any items that allegedly infringe on his right of publicity, the second asking the court for injunctive relief prohibiting Amazon from selling and listing these items, and lastly, Jackson requests both compensatory and punitive damages from Amazon (which would presumably be in a very large amount if awarded).