Hamilton Makes Deal on ‘Play Hard, Pray Harder’

     DALLAS (CN) – Los Angeles Angels baseball player Josh Hamilton has settled claims that his use of the “Play Hard, Pray Harder” slogan infringed on a Christian clothier’s trademark.
     Play Hard Pray Harder LLC, of Dallas, sued ScriptureArt LLC, of Holly Springs, N.C., and Hamilton in December 2012. The federal complaint alleged that Play Hard Pray Harder had used the mark since April, but Hamilton said in a counterclaim that his use of the slogan dated back to 2006.
     “The mark was not only a source of personal inspiration for defendant Hamilton, serving as a reminder of his struggle for sobriety and the importance of faith in achieving it, but also for his fans and those who followed his career,” the 16-page counterclaim stated. “Defendant Hamilton first had T-shirts imprinted with the mark in 2008. Since approximately that time period, he has used the mark when promoting and autographing copies of his book. Defendant Hamilton also has used the mark in various fan promotions since at least 2008, and his use of the mark is well-known through this channel of delivery. Defendant Hamilton’s use of the mark is also well-documented through numerous personal interviews and other media reports, which have appeared nationwide both in print and on video.”
     Hamilton argued Play Hard’s trademark application filing with the U.S. Patent and Trademark office on Aug. 29, 2012, came less than two weeks before he assigned his rights to the mark to ScriptureArt on Sept. 10, 2012.
     The North Carolina-based company sells home items and clothing inscribed with Christian or faith-based messages.
     Eric Fein, the Dallas attorney representing Play Hard Pray Harder, said his client tried to work with Hamilton as “brothers in Christ” even though his client had superior rights to the trademark.
     “But after being rebuffed by Hamilton and his lawyers including actions and statements to sue [Play Hard Pray Hard founder] Josh Eckel personally for everything he had, Hamilton apparently realized that acquiring the name was not honoring anyone but himself,” Fein said in a statement.
     FourTwelve Foundation, the charity started by the Angels outfielder, announced that the parties reached a settlement in mediation on July 29.
     “In the spirit of Matthew 5:39­­­­­­­-40, I have settled the lawsuit over the commercial use of the phrase ‘Play Hard, Pray Harder,’ a phrase I’ve used regularly since 2006 and publicly since 2008,” Hamilton said in a statement. “We will continue to look for creative ways to generate additional support for the FourTwelve Foundation.”
     Hamilton said he had planned for the foundation to receive any royalties from sales of licensed clothing, and that settlement was necessary to avoid a costly court battle.     
     Fein meanwhile highlighted SciptureArt’s status as a for-profit company that sold infringing shirts and sports apparel.
     “Josh Hamilton attempted to assign rights to the phrase to Scripture Art that he did not have, later had Scripture Art LLC assign whatever he assigned back to him, and then fiercely litigated the case until it became apparent that PHPH LLC and Josh Eckel would not relent their superior rights to the phrase for marketing sports apparel,” Fein said. “In reaching a settlement, PHPH LLC was extremely disappointed that it had to be extensively litigated in order for Josh Hamilton to ‘do the right thing.'”
     Hamilton was voted the American League’s Most Valuable Player in 2010 while with his previous team, the Texas Rangers. His struggle with drug and alcohol addiction and the redemption he credits to his Christian faith have been well documented by the national sports media. As a free agent, Hamilton agreed to a five-year, $125 million contract with the Angels in December.
     Play Hard Pray Harder did not return a request for comment.

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