LAS VEGAS (CN) -Shaquille O’Neal’s company wants a businessman to stop selling items over the Internet that feature a cartoon character of the basketball star in the form of a cactus. The character plays on O’Neal’s nickname as “The Big Shaqtus” after his move to the Phoenix Suns in 2008.
Mine O’Mine, of which O’Neal is president, secretary and treasurer, owns several trademark registrations for the exclusive use of O’Neal’s name and image, the federal complaint states.
After O’Neal was traded to the Phoenix Suns in February 2008, he was dubbed by fans as “The Big Shaqtus.”
Soon thereafter, Mine O’Mine says defendant Michael Calmese with True Fan Logo Inc. registered shaqtus.com and began operating an online store selling items featuring “an animated character in the form of a cactus with the facial features of O’Neal wearing an orange basketball jersey bearing the name Phoenix Shaqtus and the number 32.”
In 2008 and 2009, ESPN ran a commercial that featured O’Neal running into a cactus “bearing O’Neal’s face in the Arizona desert.”
Calmese sent a letter to ESPN, claiming that the ads created a “likelihood of confusion” with his products, and offered to jointly develop an animated “Shaqtusclaus” clip for Christmas.
ESPN responded by telling him that it already got permission from Mine O’Mine to use O’Neal’s likeness in the ads.
In December 2009, Mine O’Mine sent a letter to Calmese demanding that he stop using the Shaqtus mark to sell merchandise on his Web site, and to transfer the shaqtus.net and shaqtus.com domain names over to it.
Calmese responded Jan. 4, 2010, claiming that O’Neal consented to his use of the Shaqtus mark when O’Neal agreed to take a picture with Calmese and autograph a T-shirt.
Plaintiff seeks unspecified damages for the alleged trademark infringement and cybersquatting.
It is represented by Michael McCue with Lewis Roca.