Manatt Presents Oral Argument On Appeal For Football Legend Jim Brown Against Electronic Arts

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Last week Manatt lawyer Ron Katz, Chair of the firm’s Sports Practice Group, presented oral argument on behalf of football legend Jim Brown to a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals — Judges Pamela Rymer, Jay Bybee, and Gordon Quist (visiting from the Western District of Michigan). With him on the briefing were Manatt partners Mark Lee and Ben Shatz.

Jim Brown, widely considered to be the greatest football player of all time, sued videogame maker Electronic Arts (EA) for using his likeness in its highly successful Madden NFL videogames. Through his personal accomplishments, Brown developed substantial goodwill in his likeness and persona. Indeed, as a celebrity, Brown’s image is his trademark, protectable under federal trademark law (the Lanham Act). EA, however, used Brown’s image without his consent, and without licensing it from him, in its videogames, arguing that it had a First Amendment right of free speech to profit from Brown’s likeness. Brown’s appeal, therefore, pits trademark rights against alleged free-speech rights.

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