Reigning NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard took full charge of his free-agency status in his stunning move to the Los Angeles Clippers earlier this month.
He's trying to claim control of his famous "Klaw" logo, but he is facing some aggressive defense by Nike.
After Leonard launched a lawsuit aimed at the shoe and apparel conglomerate last month, claiming the company is taking credit for creating the logo that appeared on his Nike-endorsed apparel, Nike returned serve by filing a countersuit against Leonard, according to multiple reports.
The former Toronto Raptors star, who endorsed Nike until his contract expired last fall and eventually teamed with New Balance, contended in his original suit that he designed the logo based on sketches he drew before becoming a professional. Per his suit, Leonard claims gave Nike permission to place "on certain merchandise" during his endorsement deal with the company. He said Nike, during Leonard's time partnered with Jordan Brand, did not have his OK to apply for the copyright registration.
Nike countered in its Wednesday filing, which was done in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California -- the same court where Leonard filed his suit.
"In this action, Kawhi Leonard seeks to re-write history by asserting that he created the 'Claw Design' logo, but it was not Leonard who created that logo," said Nike in its countersuit. "The 'Claw Design' was created by a talented team of NIKE designers, as Leonard, himself, has previously admitted.
"In his Complaint, Leonard alleges he provided a design to NIKE. That is true. What is false is that the design he provided was the Claw Design. Not once in his Complaint does Leonard display or attach either the design that he provided or the Claw Design. Instead, he conflates the two, making it appear as though those discrete works are one and the same. They are not."
Nike confirmed the Leonard shared a design with the company while he was in college, but claimed that the sketch and the finished logo have unique differences while asserting ownership of the "Klaw," which Leonard continued to use and wear on apparel after his Nike deal had expired. The company sent him a cease-and-desist letter late lasy year as a result of the dispute.
The New York Times reported last month that the Los Angeles Clippers -- who ultimately won the Leonard fee-agency sweepstakes and signed him to a three-year, $103 million maximum contract earlier in July -- had "quietly looked into the feasibility of purchasing the portion of the rights to Leonard's 'Klaw' logo that is still owned by Nike."
--Field Level Media