LeBron James wants Bama. Or at least he wants their attorneys. The issue stems from a video Alabama posted on Twitter promoting a new series called Shop Talk. It features head coach Nick Saban, and former Tide player Julio Jones in a light-hearted dose of chit chat while hanging in Bama’s in-house barbershop.
So what does James have to do with all this? On his Uninterrupted media platform, he has released two episodes of a web series called The Shop, which is based on a similar concept to Alabama’s Shop Talk:
An important update here — on Wednesday evening, Bama released a second episode of the show, which was titled Bama Cuts:
So for the time being it appears as if the show will go on, with a different name for now, at least.
The issue at hand here deals with various types of intellectual property. First and probably the most significant is the question of trademark infringement. Trademark protection is intended to make sure that you, the consumer, don’t get one product confused with another due to the similarity of names. Here’s the full definition of trademark infringement:
Trademark infringement is the unauthorized use of a trademark or service mark on or in connection with goods and/or services in a manner that is likely to cause confusion, deception, or mistake about the source of the goods and/or services.
The trademark question here is whether Alabama’s Shop Talk is likely to be confused with James’ The Shop.
Potential copyright infringement is also possible here. This occurs when a copyrighted work is reproduced, distributed, performed, publicly displayed, or made into a imitated work without the copyright owner’s permission. It’s pretty clear to see how Alabama’s Shop Talk and James’ The Shop could be confused to be one in the same.
In early April, James’ Uninterrupted sent a letter to Alabama, which was obtained by ESPN:
“Your continued exploitation of ‘Shop Talk’ infringes ‘Uninterrupted’s’ copyright, trademark rights and other valuable intellectual property rights in ‘The Shop’ and significantly damages ‘Uninterrupted’s’ commercial prospects for ‘The Shop,’” the letter reads, in part.
The letter goes on to invite a conversation with Alabama before “rushing into legal proceedings.”
And now LeBron’s camp is being hit with a lawsuit which alleges that James’ camp actually ripped off the original idea for the show.
Alabama’s response is that it’s not going to stop, with Saban saying he’s seen the barbershop format done all over the place and that he wasn’t aware James had one ...
Nick Saban reacting to @KingJames' assertion that Alabama's "Shop Talk" show infringes on and damages the commercial prospects of James' show "The Shop" @abc3340 @ClayTravis @espn #RollTide pic.twitter.com/3veXRBssX8— Scott Forester (@scott4ester) April 3, 2018
... but LeBron says he’ll “be damned” if he “lets someone else use” a platform he made for athletes:
LeBron addresses Alabama's "Shop Talk" and Nick Saban's comments about being unaware of Uninterrupted's "The Shop" series: "The lawyers will figure it out." pic.twitter.com/5Ovx1EAuHN— Spencer Davies (@SpinDavies) April 4, 2018
To sum this up, the real question here is whether James’ The Shop is protectable as a trademark, and therefore made Alabama rename its new series.
According to some legal experts I’ve spoken with, the idea of honest talk about sports and other topics in a barbershop is not protectable — anyone can make a series based on that idea. However, the specific expression of that idea (how it is implemented) can be protectable.