EAU CLAIRE, Wisc. (CN) - A businessman who says he's sold trademarked "Melo Gear" clothes since 2003 claims that Nike is "bullying" him so it can sell "Melo" clothes associated with its endorser, NBA star Carmelo Anthony.
Melvin Vinson Jr., 35, says that Melo has been his nickname for his entire life. He says he started his "urban clothing line" in the late 1990s and trademarked "Melo" in 2003, and also got a Wisconsin trademark for it in 2005.
Nike signed an endorsement deal with Denver Nuggets star Carmelo Anthony in mid-2003, then began promoting its own Melo clothing, Vinson says in his federal complaint. Vinson says Nike blew off two cease-and-desist letters, and "continues to this day to infringe Vinson's trademarks by promoting and selling products bearing the infringing Melo trademarks."
"Not only has Nike continued to use its infringing Melo trademarks after receiving the cease and desist letters, but, on July 18, 2008, Nike applied to register two trademarks featuring the term 'Melo' for use on clothing and apparel," the complaint states.
He says the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office rejected Nike's application, citing a "likelihood of confusion" with Vinson's trademark.
But that didn't stop Nike. "On June 26, 2009, Nike continued its bullying tactics by filing with the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board a Petition to Cancel Vinson's trademark registrations," the complaint states. "On September 3, 2009, Nike withdrew its Petition to Cancel."
But he says Nike continues to use the infringing Melo marks on its clothing line, and offers them "in the same or substantially the same trade channels" - presumably the Internet, as well as retail stores.
Though he is the "senior user of the Melo trademarks," Vinson says, "Nike has saturated the marketplace and has led consumers into believing that Vinson's registered trademarks are actually owned by Nike or that Vinson is the infringer.
"Since Nike began using its infringing Melo trademarks, Vinson has attempted to
sell the clothing in his 'Melo Gear' product line in numerous retail stores however he has been denied access because these retail stores already carried Nike's infringing Melo products."
Vinson wants Nike enjoined from violating his trademark, and the profits it's made by its infringement.
He is represented by Michael Duffy of Chicago, and Pete Albanis of Fort Myers, Fla.
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