The NBA is reportedly flexing its muscle at a Brooklyn man named Mike Sorisi. According to the New York Post, Sorisi, 26, is a passionate Knicks fan who lives in the heart of Brooklyn Nets territory. In an effort rally other Knicks fans living in what is now enemy turf, Sorisi is said to have coined the term “Knicklyn” to represent Knicks’ fans who are faced with rooting against their beloved borough’s new home team because of their previous allegiance to the Knicks. Sorisi created a website, and began to sell apparel featuring a “Knicklyn” logo that he allegedly designed.
It did not take long for the NBA’s league office to get wind of Sorisi’s website, and a few days after Sorisi started selling Knicklyn apparel online he received a cease and desist letter from league headquarters which articulated the league’s position that Sorisi’s “sale of unlicensed merchandise using NBA trademarks violated league and team intellectual property rights.” Specifically, the league contends that both Sorisi’s use of the word “Knick”, and the basketball in the “Knicklyn” logo (that the league says is similar to the ball from the Brooklyn Nets’ logo) infringe upon trademarks held by the league. In addition to asking Sorisi to halt sales, the letter reportedly demanded that Sorisi send any unsold merchandise to the league.
“I kind of feel like I’m being bullied,” Sorisi said to the Post. “I’m one person operating this thing, and I need to sell goods to cover my costs.” Sorisi also offered his own legal opinion in response to the league’s position. “They don’t own a trademark on circles,” Sorisi said. “There’s a Knickerbocker Avenue that runs through Brooklyn. They don’t own that word.”
An NBA spokesman acknowledged the letter in a statement to the Post and reiterated the league’s position on the sale of Knicklyn merchandise. The league rep added that the NBA did not demand compensation from Sorisi for the website nor did they ask that the Knicklyn website be shutdown.
You can get a look Sorisi’s website here. Though this may seem like a big company attacking the little guy, apparel companies who are authorized to make and sell merchandise featuring NBA trademarks pay hefty licensing fees for the right to do so. Those same licensing fees account for a significant portion of the league’s revenue stream. Sorisi raises some reasonable arguments in his defense, but he’s probably going to have to hire lawyers to make those arguments in court if he wants to keep selling his gear without paying any licensing fees to the league.