Carnival Corp. backs down from legal fight with LeBron James over trademark

Taylor Dolven

Carnival Corporation has backed down from a legal fight with basketball star LeBron James.

Just eight days after James filed an opposition to Carnival Corp.’s application for a “King James” trademark, the company last week abandoned its 15-month attempt to secure the name for one of its cruise ships, ending the dispute.

Carnival Corp., the largest cruise company in the world with nine cruise brands, first applied for the “King James” trademark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in August 2019 through its United Kingdom-based entity Carnival plc. The company amended the application several times to overcome conflicts raised by the office, and the trademark finally got the federal government go-ahead in July 2020.

James — who goes by @KingJames on Twitter — filed an opposition to the trademark on Nov. 18 through his limited liability company LBJ Trademarks. He claimed that the proposed trademark is a well-known nickname for the hoops icon and would create a false link between him and the cruise company.

James is no stranger to Carnival Corp. From 2010 to 2014 he played for the Miami Heat, the NBA team owned by Carnival Corp. Chairman Micky Arison. The Ohio native won two NBA championships with the Heat before returning to play for the Cleveland Cavaliers, where he secured his third championship. In 2018, he left Cleveland for the Los Angeles Lakers, where he won his fourth championship earlier this year against the Heat.

Carnival Corporation Chairman Micky Arison leaves the Wilkie D. Ferguson Jr. Federal U.S. Courthouse on Monday October 2, 2019 after a hearing on pollution charges and probation violations that stem from the company’s 2016 conviction for dumping oily waste into the ocean from its ships.
Carnival Corporation Chairman Micky Arison leaves the Wilkie D. Ferguson Jr. Federal U.S. Courthouse on Monday October 2, 2019 after a hearing on pollution charges and probation violations that stem from the company’s 2016 conviction for dumping oily waste into the ocean from its ships.

On Nov. 26, just over a week after James filed his opposition to the U.S. trademark, Carnival Corp. withdrew, asking the trademark office to dismiss the application “with prejudice” — or permanently.

While Carnival Corp. was applying for its “King James” trademark in the U.S., the company applied for the same trademark in the United Kingdom. That trademark was registered there in January 2020.

Carnival Corp. spokesperson Roger Frizzell declined to comment. Howard Shire, a New York-based intellectual property attorney representing James, also declined to comment.

Carnival Corp.’s decision to give up on the U.S. trademark so quickly is rare, according to Miami trademark attorney Mark Terry. It shows the company likely didn’t want the public relations headache of going against such a beloved MVP.

“The trademark office has already decided that Carnival was entitled to the trademark, that’s why it had proceeded to this stage,” Terry said. “That’s what makes the quick withdraw so rare. They’re paying all these attorney’s fees, they go through all of that for more than a year. Then they just withdrew it. Usually the defendant would put in a little bit of a fight.”

Another famous “King James” was the leader of the British monarchy in the early 17th century, who sponsored the English translation of the Bible, known as the “Authorized King James Version.”

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Had James and Carnival Corp. dug in and continued the trademark dispute, they may have had to answer the question of who is more famous: the monarch or the basketball player?

“If you poll 100 random people in this country and the majority say LeBron James, he’s got a good point,” Terry said.

Carnival Corp. has canceled U.S. cruises through Jan. 31 as it works with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to meet new COVID-19 requirements for resuming passenger operations.