LeBron James’s possible reaction after being accused of trademark infringement. (David Richard/USA Today)
Claiming that LeBron James and his business associates stole the idea of a video series set in a barbershop “for their own commercial gain,” a Michigan businessman has filed a lawsuit in federal court alleging trademark infringement over James’s “The Shop” Web series, which airs on the NBA star’s Uninterrupted platform.
The lawsuit, filed Monday in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, was brought by a man named Sebastian Jenkins, who owns a Detroit business called the Social Club, which he describes as “a dual purpose barbershop and content studio whose mission, in addition to providing haircuts, is to support cultural discussion, building community, personal growth, and diversity.” Out of this business, Jackson claims that he developed a concept known as “Shop Talk,” a program where “guests consist of local and national celebrities who share their business success stories and other insights while getting their hair cut.” Jackson says he started pitching the idea to advertisers after it began garnering local and national attention, and he filed a trademark for “Shop Talk” through his company, Adventure Enterprises, in February 2016.
In the lawsuit, Jackson claims that he began discussing the idea of a barbershop video series in 2014 with Cree Nix, an Uninterrupted employee who is listed as a co-defendant along with James and his business partner, Maverick Carter. These discussions lasted until 2016, when the first episode of “The Shop” began streaming on James’s website. After asking about what was happening, Jackson says he was told by an associate of the defendants that the show was a “one-time thing” and that the associate expressed remorse about the situation. However, two more episodes of “The Shop” have since aired, even though Jackson sent the defendants a cease-and-desist letter in August 2017.
Jackson is asking that a judge prohibit James from making future episodes of “The Shop” and is asking that James and Co. pay him any profits realized from the show, plus damages for the trademark infringement.
Earlier this month, James’s Uninterrupted legal team sent a letter to the University of Alabama addressing concerns over copyright infringement after the Crimson Tide began its own barbershop Web series called “Shop Talk.” Jackson’s lawsuit says that took a certain amount of gall on Uninterrupted’s part, considering his claims.
“Notably absent from Defendants’ cease and desist letter to the University of Alabama was any reference to the fact that Defendants (i) had actually stolen the SHOP TALK concept from Adventure Enterprises, (ii) engaged in the very same wrongful conduct and infringement that they accused the University of Alabama of in their letter, and (iii) were fully aware of this wrongful conduct and infringement by virtue of Adventure Enterprises’s August 14, 2017 letter,” the lawsuit states.
James’s camp says the timing of the lawsuit is curious.
“The company sought a payment eight months ago and were told their claim was ridiculous, and they disappeared,” a source close to James and Carter told ESPN’s Dave McMenamin on Monday. “They clearly saw the media around the University of Alabama story and saw an opportunity for a publicity stunt.”
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