Next Up For NBA Champ Giannis: Winning These IP Cases
Giannis Antetokounmpo's work is done on the basketball court, after winning the NBA Finals Tuesday night with a 50-point performance. But the Milwaukee Bucks star still has work left to do in federal court in a sprawling trademark litigation campaign over his "Greek Freak" nickname. Here's a look at how he's fared and what claims remain.
Since rising to prominence as one of the NBA's best players with back-to-back MVP awards in 2019 and 2020, Greece-born Antetokounmpo has filed 51 intellectual property infringement lawsuits with the help of his attorney Anastasi Pardalis of Pardalis & Nohavicka LLP.
The lawsuits, all filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York within the last two years, accuse various online merchandise sellers of illegally peddling products using the "Greek Freak" nickname he registered as a trademark in 2018. He has another trademark application pending for "Greek Fr34k," an alternate spelling of the moniker featuring his jersey number.
Out of those 51 cases, 39 have been voluntarily dropped or settled, court records show. Four have been administratively closed due to filing errors, and three have ended in default judgments permanently enjoining further infringement and awarding Antetokounmpo a total of $140,000.
But as of Wednesday, the 2021 NBA Finals MVP still had five cases pending in the SDNY. Two have been filed within the last month — an indication, perhaps, that Antetokounmpo has no plans of slowing down after winning his first championship.
One such lawsuit, filed on June 9, accused six individuals of infringing his intellectual property by selling "Greek Freak"-branded merchandise, including stickers and face masks, on e-commerce sites such as Etsy and Redbubble.
Antetokounmpo has since dropped his claims against four of those individuals, but claims against the other two are still alive.
In another lawsuit filed July 16, Antetokounmpo alleged that five individuals similarly stepped on his intellectual property with their Etsy and Redbubble sales of T-shirts and jerseys. No further action has been taken yet in that suit.
Three of Antetokounmpo's older lawsuits, meanwhile, are now in the midst of the default judgment phase after being met with silence from the defendants. This includes an August lawsuit brought against an Arizona-based online clothing seller and a March action lobbed against nine individuals that allegedly sell infringing phone cases, mugs and drug paraphernalia online.
U.S. District Judge John G. Koeltl entered default judgment in October against another of Antetokounmpo's targets, a paleo-friendly frozen food seller that allegedly markets a Greek cuisine-inspired spice mixture called "Greek Freak Spice."
Judge Koeltl then tasked a magistrate judge with weighing whether Antetokounmpo deserves his requested $100,000 in damages from Ice Age Meals and its CEO Nick Massie, who have not appeared in the lawsuit and did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday.
In a June 17 recommendation, U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert W. Lehrburger said Antetokounmpo is entitled to $10,000 in attorney fees and a permanent injunction for Ice Age Meals' trademark infringement.
But the magistrate told Judge Koeltl to deny the NBA star's statutory damages claim, saying there's no proof that the infringing spices were counterfeit versions of any similar products sold by Antetokounmpo.
"Plaintiff nowhere alleges or presents evidence that defendants have tried to 'pass off' their Greek Freak flavored spice as one of plaintiff's actual products," Judge Lehrburger wrote. "The complaint does not allege, and plaintiff has submitted no evidence, that plaintiff markets any spice product."
Antetokounmpo objected on July 1, arguing that regardless of whether he sells spices, Ice Age Meals did engage in counterfeiting by purposely fooling consumers into thinking he had approved the "Greek Freak Spice."
"Contrary to [the] report's findings, plaintiff did allege in his complaint that defendants intended to create the mistaken belief in consumer minds that defendants' product is somehow legitimately affiliated, connected, associated with or endorsed by plaintiff," Antetokounmpo wrote.
The recommendation remains pending before Judge Koeltl.
Antetokounmpo's counsel did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday on the status of his various lawsuits.