Nike Files Countersuit Against Kawhi Leonard Alleging Copyright Violations, Breach of Contract

Kawhi Leonard’s legal battle with Nike just got a lot bigger.

After the NBA star filed a lawsuit in June over Nike’s trademark of a claw logo, the Beaverton, Ore.-based company filed a countersuit Wednesday against Leonard. It accused the baller of copyright infringement, fraud within his initial copyright filing and breach of contract.

Leonard himself admits that he used the claw logo on non-Nike merchandise, according to the lawsuit he filed. In the filing, the star, now signed to New Balance, said he has plans to use the logo for multiple things such as apparel, footwear, sports camps and charity functions, but Nike has objected to the uses.

kawhi Leonard, nike, logo, the claw
Kawhi Leonard’s claw drawing vs. Nike’s copyrighted logo, as seen in Nike’s court filing.
CREDIT: From filing

In the new court documents filed this week, Nike denies any wrongdoing. The Swoosh acknowledges having seen a drafted design the Los Angeles Clipper shared in 2011, shortly after signing to the brand. Although both logos feature a claw with the athlete’s “KL” initials inside, Nike argues the image Leonard developed is “plainly distinct” from its copyrighted design, according to the filing.

“In this action, Kawhi Leonard seeks to rewrite history by asserting that he created the ‘Claw Design’ logo, but it was not Leonard who created that logo. The ‘Claw Design’ was created by a talented team of Nike designers as Leonard, himself has previously admitted,” reads the suit.

Leonard was linked with Nike from October 2011 until September 2018, when his deal expired. As part of the contract, the two-time NBA MVP was prohibited from authorizing any third-party to use Nike trademarks. According to new filing, the athletic giant alleges Leonard violated this condition by using the logo on various merchandise beginning in February 2016; it also says the star used the logo without permission on apparel sold during the 2019 NBA Finals.

Since leaving Jordan Brand for New Balance, the star forward has been involved in several winning designs.

New Balance confirmed with FN that the first drop of his OMN1S basketball sneakers — a two-shoe lineup that also featured a complementary lifestyle-focused 997 Sport — sold out in less than a minute in an unannounced May release. New Balance also found success with a limited-edition release of L.A. Clippers-themed kicks that dropped this month when Leonard inked a deal with the team; the kicks are now selling for up to $2,500.

FN has reached out to Nike for comment.

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