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OWE’s Larry Townsend Not Betting on LeBron to Reach the Finals in Copyright/Trademark Dispute

Larry Townsend contributed lively commentary to an April 2, 2018 article by law.com’s IP reporter Scott Graham, LeBron James’ Dispute with Alabama Far From a Slam Dunk. Graham reports that LeBron’s legal team has sent a threatening letter to the University of Alabama over ‘Bama’s “Shop Talk” video that has coach Nick Saban talking football with some of his players in a barbershop.  James had previously released two videos that had NBA stars in a barber shop talking ball with LeBron. 

Larry doesn’t think much of LeBron’s chances to make a threatened copyright and trademark claim stick, “Don’t mess with LeBron,” says Larry, “but he might be in a little over his head here.”  He notes that ideas and concepts aren’t subject to copyright, and that format rarely is, and he doesn’t think that the concept is all that original.  “There’s a bar. There’s a barbershop. That’s where guys hang out and talk sports,” says Larry. 

Larry also noted that titles for TV series – like books, plays, movies, and other “expressive works” – enjoy special trademark protection under the First Amendment.  To prevail in a claim against a TV-series name, it’s necessary to show that the title is somehow explicitly misleading or has no artistic relevance to the content. In sum, if a trademark claim is brought against “Shop Talk,” it may be LeBron who gets mopped up by the towel guys on the basketball court floor.


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