When the Kraken recently unveiled their Winter Classic jersey (above left), most of us loved the design, which was based on uniforms worn by the old Seattle Metropolitans (above right). But at least one person — a Seattle entrepreneur named Paul Kim — was not pleased.
The Seattle Times published a fascinating article last night about a trademark-infringement lawsuit that Kim has filed against the Kraken in U.S. District Court. I strongly recommend reading the entire article, which is full of behind-the-scenes details, but here is the gist:
- In 2014, Kim acquired the trademark rights to the Metropolitans’ brand, including their team colors and distinctive “S” logo, and began selling throwback Metropolitans merchandise. He and his merchandise have apparently become enmeshed in the Seattle hockey scene since then.
- The lawsuit alleges that the Kraken made several lowball licensing offers to Kim in recent years, including a lowball offer to license the Metropolitans’ logo and colors for the Kraken’s Winter Classic jersey. After Kim turned down those offers because he felt they were below market value (the lawsuit provides numbers to back up Kim’s position), the Kraken then informed him the team would go in a different direction with their Winter Classic jersey design. Instead, the design turned out to be transparently Metropolitans-based. That’s the essence of the lawsuit — that the Kraken violated Kim’s trademark rights by using the Metropolitans brand as the basis for their Winter Classic design. He’s seeking at least $2.5 million in damages.
- Per the Times article, “[T]he lawsuit seeks a temporary and permanent injunction blocking the Kraken from using Metropolitans trademarks — though there isn’t time to block the Winter Classic jerseys at Monday’s game.”
Again, go check out the entire article for additional details.
This seems like a situation that could have and should have resulted in a mutually beneficial partnership between Kim and the team, and it’s sad to see that it hasn’t worked out that way. Judging from the article and the lawsuit, the blame for that appears to lie with the Kraken — a classic “corporate bully vs. little guy” scenario — but of course that’s just one side of the story. The team hasn’t yet responded to the lawsuit, so we’ll see how that plays out.
(My thanks to Justin Adler, Harry F. Higgins, and Phil for bringing this story to my attention.)