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Kareem Abdul-Jabbar faces trademark infringement lawsuit over documentary

July 29, 2011 | 10:03 am

6a00d8341c506253ef01538e94eaa3970b-320wiBlack Fives Inc., owners of trademarked logos commemorating vintage African American basketball teams, filed a federal lawsuit against Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, alleging he committed trademark infringement for his recent documentary "On the Shoulders of Giants," according to the Black Fives' website.

"We played no role," according to the website's statement regarding Abdul-Jabbar's documentary, a 75-minute movie narrated by Jamie Foxx that focuses on the first all-black basketball team, the Harlem Rens (also known as the New York Renaissance), and the effect of that basketball team on the sport and society. "We are not involved or affiliated with any aspect of the film. We did not assist in any part of the film. We did not endorse or sponsor the film, or any events related to it. We did not grant permission for the use in the film of our merchandise in the film. We did not grant permission for the use in the film of our copyrighted photograph of John Isaacs, posing in 2003 wearing our New York Rens gear."

Abdul-Jabbar's business manager, Deborah Morales, didn't return a call for comment, but the website statement alleges that Abdul-Jabbar's film company said, "Everything was cleared legally and properly."

Among other allegations in the Black Fives' lawsuit:

-- Abdul-Jabbar and his film company never requested permission to use images;

-- Black Fives Inc. sent a "cease and desist" letter in 2008 asking the film company to stop using the trademarks;

-- The website statement shares apparent emailed conversations between Black Fives Inc. and Morales dating back to 2006 when owners were initially approached about the film, stating it was based on "common knowledge that our company was a known leading resource for research, information, artifacts, merchandise and other materials relating to the New York Rens."

-Black Fives also alleges Abdul-Jabbar's film company decided to use the images without authorization and that efforts to reach a compensation agreement went ignored.

--Even though the article states that the organization withdrew the complaint without prejudice, the organization may re-file the complaint in the future. 


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-- Mark Medina

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Photo: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and James Donaldson of the Dallas Mavericks in a 1988 playoff game. Credit: Reed Saxon / Associated Press