Nike has filed a countersuit against LA Clippers star Kawhi Leonard in response to his lawsuit against the company last month, the latest step in a battle over the “Klaw” logo that was developed and used during Leonard’s time as part of Jordan Brand.
“In this action, Kawhi Leonard seeks to re-write history by asserting that he created the ‘Claw Design’ logo, but it was not Leonard who created that logo,” Nike states in its countersuit, which was filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California, where Leonard’s original suit was filed last month. “The ‘Claw Design’ was created by a talented team of NIKE designers, as Leonard, himself, has previously admitted.
“In his Complaint, Leonard alleges he provided a design to NIKE. That is true. What is false is that the design he provided was the Claw Design. Not once in his Complaint does Leonard display or attach either the design that he provided or the Claw Design. Instead, he conflates the two, making it appear as though those discrete works are one and the same. They are not.”
In its countersuit, Nike provides a pair of images — one of which it says is the image Leonard provided to the company, which has a “KL,” with the L also turning into a numeral 2, inside of a hand, and the other the design Nike ultimately created.
Later in the countersuit, Nike paraphrases quotes from Leonard in a Nice Kicks oral history about his logo design from 2014 as saying he was happy with how the logo turned out, though the quote in the countersuit doesn’t include the beginning, in which Leonard says that he came up with the original idea of incorporating his initials in the logo.
The countersuit also reiterates later that Leonard is trying to take credit for the work of the logo’s designers by saying he owns it despite providing only the initial rough draft of the design.
“Despite the Contract’s intellectual property ownership provision to which Leonard agreed, and despite his prior public acknowledgement that NIKE authored the Claw Design, Leonard has now decided that he, and not NIKE, is the rightful owner of the registered Claw Design, and has gone even further to accuse NIKE of committing fraud by registering its Claw Design with the Copyright Office,” the suit says.
“Moreover, in clear contravention of Leonard’s contractual obligations and NIKE’s exclusive ownership rights in and to the Claw Design, Leonard has continued to use and reproduce the Claw Design, without NIKE’s authorization, on his non-Nike apparel worn publicly, and has manifested his imminent intent to commercially exploit the Claw Design on non-NIKE merchandise.”
The suit goes on to later point out Leonard used the logo on non-Nike clothing during the NBA Finals, and that he alluded to planning to do so in the future in his own lawsuit last month. Because of this, Nike says in its countersuit that it is “entitled to the maximum statutory damages recoverable, or for other amounts as may be proper,” in addition to legal fees and other costs.
The company also asked the court to stop Leonard from being able to use the logo, to dismiss his lawsuit against Nike and to rule in its favor.
Leonard became a shoe free agent during the season, and eventually agreed to a deal with New Balance. The Boston-based company has created multiple campaigns involving Leonard this season — one being “Fun Guy,” and another, more recently, being “King of the North,” playing off a phrase from the recently concluded HBO series “Game of Thrones.”
Leonard originally addressed his lawsuit ahead of Game 3 of the NBA Finals, when he was a member of the Toronto Raptors.
“It happened over a long time ago,” Leonard said. “You guys are just finding out. Not a big worry of mine.”