Schiff Hardin attorneys regularly represent clients in high stakes, high profile litigation and transactions in the sports, media and entertainment industries. Though distinct, these industries share the need for lawyers who are nimble, creative, discreet, and act as unflagging champions for their clients. Whether representing the Chicago Bears in the development of the new Soldier Field, defending the NCAA against antitrust attack, or helping Warner Brothers protect its rights to classic films, our lawyers bring these attributes to every case.
The Hangover II Case: Just weeks before the scheduled worldwide release of The Hangover Part II, the owner of an alleged copyright in the tattoo on boxing legend Mike Tyson’s face brought a lawsuit against Warner Brothers Entertainment when advertisements revealed the same tattoo appearing on the face of actor Ed Helms. The plaintiff alleged that the movie infringed his copyright in the tattoo and asked the court to enjoin the movie’s release. Warner Brothers called on us to defend the case and to prevent a damaging injunction barring the release of the film. After a hearing held just two days before the scheduled release date, the judge decided in favor of Warner Brothers. The movie was released on time and Warner Brothers was able to earn the return of its investment in the second chapter of its highly profitable comedy series.
NCAA Antitrust Actions: When facing high-profile challenges to its rules precluding payment to student-athletes, the NCAA has called on us more than 30 times in the last 15 years.
In the O’Bannon Case, the challenge alleged that the NCAA rules restraining student-athletes from being compensated for so-called “group licenses” they would otherwise be able to sell to appear in television broadcasts of football and men’s basketball games. Schiff Hardin defeated the plaintiffs’ attempt to have a damages class certified. The Court did certify an injunctive–relief class of current student-athletes, however, and our team then assisted at trial, developing the expert testimony and procompetitive justifications. The District Court ruled against the NCAA, but the firm is now assisting with appellate arguments and is taking the lead in defending against the plaintiffs’ fee petition, which seeks $44 million in statutory attorney fees.
In Keller vs. NCAA, the plaintiffs sought to represent a class of former student-athletes claiming that college sports-themed video games manufactured by co-defendant EA Sports violated student-athletes’ rights of publicity. All defendants have entered into settlement agreements with the proposed class, and the Court has granted preliminary approval. We shepherded the settlement through the approval process on behalf of the NCAA. The parties are in the process of class notice, with final approval is scheduled for July 2015.
In Rock vs. NCAA, we are the lead counsel in defending a challenge to one-year scholarships and limits on the number of athletic scholarships by sport. This case is a continuation of the Agnew vs. NCAA matter, which we won in the District Court and in the Seventh Circuit.
Right of Publicity Claim for Michael Jordan: When Mr. Jordan was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, Sports Illustrated published a special commemorative edition of Sports Illustrated Presents covering Mr. Jordan’s storied career. Two grocery store chains took advantage of that opportunity to publish ads in the commemorative edition that used Mr. Jordan’s identity to promote and advertise their goods and services. Mr. Jordan called on us to protect his right of publicity and other intellectual property and thereby protect and preserve the value of his endorsement. We established, in an appeal to the Seventh Circuit, that use of Mr. Jordan’s identity in an advertisement touted by the retailer as a “tribute” is commercial speech under First Amendment jurisprudence and is subject to claims for its misuse.
Schiff Hardin has represented the Chicago Bears and its primary owners for over 25 years, in contract and tax matters, construction, financing and general corporate counseling. We served as counsel for the seven-year project to build a $600 million stadium and related improvements on the Chicago lakefront at Soldier Field. This included the design, financing, construction, leasing and operation of the facility, as well as related legislation and governmental approvals, and defense of litigation to the project. We also advise the Bears and the McCaskey family on business succession matters, working with the NFL on League guidelines for ownership.