March 29, 2012 12:35 am

Nike sues Reebok over use of Tebow name

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Nike has sued Reebok for using quarterback Tim Tebow’s name on the back of New York Jets jerseys just days before Nike unveils its first football uniforms under a new sponsorship deal with the league.

Nike is due to launch its new National Football League uniforms next week, taking over from Reebok, but the lawsuit claims Reebok has used last week’s transfer of Mr Tebow to the Jets to “illegitimately” capture a final rush of jersey sales.

Nike, the world’s biggest sporting goods maker by sales, says in its lawsuit that Reebok is not authorised to use Mr Tebow’s name on Jets products and is damaging Nike’s business. It is seeking an order barring Reebok from selling the items and unspecified damages.

Mr Tebow became an unlikely hero for snatching a string of last-ditch wins for the Denver Broncos and taking them to last season’s play-offs. He is a devout Christian famed for celebrating wins by sinking to one knee in prayer.

His transfer to the New York Jets, a team from the US’s largest sports and media market, has generated round-the-clock news coverage in what is normally a quiet period for NFL activity, one month after the end of the season, the complaint says.

The NFL deal is expected to be a key driver of Nike’s sales growth this year in the US.

“The opportunity to sell the first Tebow-identified Jets apparel is a unique and shortlived opportunity,” Nike’s complaint says.

“It is unlikely that a consumer who purchases an unauthorised Tebow-identified NFL jersey or T-shirt from Reebok this week will purchase an authorised Tebow jersey or T-shirt from Nike the following week.”

Nike said its “efforts to obtain orders from retailers for Tebow-identified Jets products have been rebuffed because retailers have pending orders with Reebok and want to sell through such inventory before placing orders with Nike”.

Mr Tebow was promoted from second-string quarterback at the Broncos and is expected to be an unusually high-profile back up in New York too when the new season begins in September.

Nike’s complaint says that it already has the rights to use the Tebow name from a previous agreement with the player. But it acknowledges that Reebok can use the NFL brand on products without his name until March 31. Nike’s license to use the NFL brand begins on April 1.

Reebok said in a statement: “Reebok was notified of the lawsuit only earlier today and had no prior knowledge of any dispute. At this time we still have not seen all the legal papers, and therefore, have no comment.”

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