Kawhi Leonard is one of the best all-around basketball players on the planet, and that is in no small part thanks to one of is defining physical attributes, i.e. his enormous mitts. Like Michael Jordan before him, Kawhi has figured out ways to leverage those hands to his advantage on both sides of the court.
Early on in his career, they earned him the nickname “The Klaw,” and through his endorsement deal with Jordan (owned by Nike), that led to the development of a logo that has been associated with him ever since. However, Kawhi has since parted ways with the Oregon-based shoe giant and signed on with New Balance.
Nike, however, has refused to give up the rights to the logo, and on Wednesday, a court rejected his bid to regain the copyright, ruling that the final version of the logo is just different enough from Kawhi’s original sketch to ensure their ownership of its intellectual property rights.
U.S. District Judge Michael W. Mosman ruled that the logo Nike designers helped create with Leonard marked an “independent piece of intellectual property’’ that was distinct from the original sketch Leonard initially conceived and shared with Nike.
“It’s not merely a derivative work of the sketch itself,’’ the judge ruled from the bench after an hour of oral argument held by phone as well as multiple briefs filed in the case. “I do find it to be new and significantly different from the design.”
Nike sues Kawhi back over his “Klaw” logo
— SoleCollector.com (@SoleCollector) July 18, 2019
Leonard originally filed his suit during the 2019 NBA Finals when he was still with the Raptors. The following summer, there were rumors that the Los Angeles Clippers were considering making a bid to Nike for the rights to the logo as part of their free agency pitch to Kawhi. That didn’t happen, but Kawhi, of course, ended up signing their anyway. Regardless, it’s a tough loss for Kawhi and his camp, but also an opportunity to move forward on something bigger and better.