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NBA Trading Card-Maker Calls a Foul

DALLAS (CN) - Sports trading card-maker Panini America claims in court that a competitor is selling products autographed by NBA star Kevin Durant, with whom Panini claims to have an exclusive contract.

Irving-based Panini America sued Dallas-based Leaf Trading Cards and its founder Brian Gray in Dallas County Court, alleging tortious interference with contract.

Panini claims Leaf and Gray are trying to sell 750 stickers with Durant's autograph. Panini says it signed an exclusive licensing agreement with Durant in December 2011, granting it the exclusive use of his name, likeness, nicknames and signatures.

"Success in the trading card industry is based, in large measure, on reputation as well as athletes that you have 'exclusive' agreements with," the complaint states. "As a result of these factors, Panini takes its reputation very seriously. Additionally, it has expended significant time and money to have 'exclusive agreements' with a number of athletes in the NFL, NHL and NBA."

Bryan Bane, a business manager with Panini, said in an affidavit attached to the complaint that Gray urged him to buy the stickers to "keep them off the market." Bane claims in the affidavit that that Gray told him that if Panini did not buy the stickers, he would "release the stickers into the market for free."

Durant is a forward for the Oklahoma City Thunder, who are leading the Western Conference of the NBA. He is a three-time All-Star, a two-time league scoring champion and was the NBA Rookie of the Year in 2008.

Panini seeks an injunction, delivery of the stickers, an accounting, and exemplary damages.

Panini is represented by William Toles with Wright Toles in Dallas.

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