Big Mess Just in Time for World Cup


CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CN) - A man who claimed to know the most famous soccer players in the world tricked a licensing company into buying nonexistent rights to print posters of Lionel Andrés Messi, Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior and Cristiano Ronaldo, the licensing company claims in court.
     bCreative, through its parent company Capital Concepts, sued CDI Media Group Corp. and its president Javier Perez, in Federal Court.
     bCreative claims that Perez's misrepresentations that the licenses were legit could expose it to legal action from its printing company and Messi's team, Futbol Club Barcelona -just two months before the World Cup begins.
     According to the lawsuit, bCreative president Scott Gardiner met Perez, of La Verne, Calif., at a trade show last year. Perez offered Gardner a licensing arrangement for posters depicting the soccer stars, and said Gardner could sublicense the images to poster printers, according to the complaint.
     "During this meeting, Mr. Perez told Mr. Gardiner that he was formerly a director of marketing for FIFA [the world soccer body] and had personal relationships with Messi, Neymar, and Ronaldo," the complaint states.
     It adds: "He also told Mr. Gardiner that his company CDI had the right and license to use the photograph, likeness, endorsement and other indicia of Messi, Neymar, and Ronaldo in connection with advertising and promotional activities and the sale of certain products, including posters."
     They struck a deal and bCreative licensed out nine images of soccer players to two poster printing companies - non-parties Trends International Publishing Corporation and Pyramid International - and agreed to pay each player $10,000 for a "Player's Rights Fee" through Perez's company, according to the complaint.
     Perez told the company that the players' jerseys in the pictures would be scrubbed of all team logos and marks that could get them in trouble, bCreative claims.
     Based on Perez's word, bCreative says, it came to terms with Pyramid International to create and sell the posters throughout Europe, and the posters were released on Dec. 1, 2013.
     "Only days later, one of Pyramid's competitors and an FC Barcelona licensee, GB Eye Poster Co. ('GB Eye'), questioned bCreative's and Pyramid's rights to produce and sell posters with the Approved Messi Image (the 'Messi Poster'). In response, Mr. Perez assured Mr. Gardiner and bCreative that the posters were within the scope of CDI's license with FC Barcelona's players, including Messi," the complaint states.
     bCreative claims Perez continued assuring it even after FC Barcelona told Pyramid that the Messi poster infringed on its rights by using Messi's image and the team's colors.
     Perez promised to send the team a copy of all appropriate licenses and rights to the images, but he never followed through, bCreative claims.
     "Instead, Mr. Perez sent FC Barcelona copy of a stock photography license for a photograph of Messi which he apparently purchased in his own name on December 20, 2013 using a personal credit card," the complaint states. "Upon receipt of this license, FC Barcelona informed Pyramid that this license did not permit Pyramid to produce and sell the Messi Poster."
     bCreative says FC Barcelona continues to claim that the poster infringes on its rights, and has demanded that Pyramid stop selling it.
     "Pyramid, in turn, has informed bCreative that it will seek damages for any lost sales due to FC Barcelona's claims and demands, and Pyramid has demanded that bCreative and/or CDI provide it with the documents, including releases or licenses, that would resolve FC Barcelona's claim that the Messi Poster infringes its rights," the complaint states.
     It adds: "Over the past two months, Mr. Gardiner has sent Mr. Perez numerous emails, text, phone messages, and personal message through a shared business colleague requesting his assistance in responding to FC Barcelona and Pyramid. Mr. Perez has essentially ignored these communications, finally telling Mr. Gardiner on February 26, 2014, that he had resigned from CDI due to his 'insubordination.'"
     bCreative claims Perez is "the owner and only employee of CDI and his 'resignation' was not for a legitimate business reason but instead to evade bCreative, Pyramid, and FC Barcelona."
     bCreative seeks $4 million in compensatory damages and $350,000 in punitive damages for breach of contract and fraud.
     It is represented by Patrick Asplin of Lenhart Pettit.