Whether you remember Mike Tyson from his 1980s glory days as a championship boxer, that time he bit off part of Evander Holyfield’s ear, his cameo in The Hangover, or his three-year prison stint for rape, you are probably very familiar with the man’s face. But that doesn’t mean you can just go slapping his photo and name all over merchandise without his permission.
That’s why Tyson is suing a company called the Boxing Hall of Fame, which appears to operates out of a Las Vegas strip mall but also claims to own “one of the world’s largest collections of boxing display memorabilia.”
According to the lawsuit [PDF] filed this week in a Nevada federal court, BHF is violating Tyson’s trademark by selling apparel and other merchandise with his likeness and his “Iron Mike” nickname.
Tyson says his own name is a federally registered mark, and that while “Iron Mike” is not registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the nickname is “widely known by the general public to be Mr. Tyson’s nickname.”
The lawsuit points to a few examples of T-shirts currently for sale on Amazon.com that allegedly infringe on his trademarks. For example, the below shirts, which are sold by Boxing Hall of Fame:
The complaint alleges that BHF has also entered into agreements with other online vendors — including American Classics Apparel, Macy’s, and Urban Outfitters, which are not named as defendants — “to sell products that are purportedly ‘officially licensed’ and that bear Mr. Tyson’s name, likeness, and marks.”
Tyson hasn’t authorized this use, the lawsuit states.
It’s not only shirts, Tyson claims: BHF allegedly negotiated with vendors to use his name and likeness on other products like energy bars, energy drinks, health-related products, and gaming products, again, without his consent.
According to the lawsuit, Tyson gave defendants notice that such activities infringe on his rights, and ordered them to cease and desist using his name and likeness.
“Defendants have used and exploited the registered trademark MIKE TYSON without Mr. Tyson’s consent or authorization in connection with apparel and other items that Defendants offer for sale directly or through third-party vendors in a manner that is likely to cause confusion or mistake, or to deceive,” in violation of the Lanham Act, the complaint states.
The lawsuit is seeking a trial by jury, as well as an injunction barring BHF from using Tyson’s name and likeness; damages; an award of treble damages — which would mean triple the final amount a jury decides on — and all profits made from the alleged trademark violations; the destruction of the allegedly infringing articles; punitive damages; and attorneys fees and costs.
We’ve reached out to BHF for comment on the lawsuit and will update this post if we hear back.