Muhammad Ali Hoping for a Knockout in Trademark Infringement Case

Muhammad Ali has entered the legal ring, accusing digital bookseller Kobo Inc. of using the former heavyweight champion’s “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee” slogan in an advertisement without permission. The trademark lawsuit seeks injunctive relief against Kobo, requests that it recall and destroy all allegedly infringing advertisements, and seeks attorneys’ fees and damages.

The complaint alleges that Kobo improperly used the slogan in a New York Times advertisement for its eReader, an electronic book-reading device. The slogan and Ali’s name was the most prominent wording on the advertising page, and underneath the expression, according to the complaint, the ad read: “Lightweight. Powerful. Intuitive. The new Kobo eReader Touch Edition. Just in time for Father’s Day.”

Muhammad Ali Enterprises LLC, a California company that owns the intellectual property rights of the boxer, alleges that Kobo’s use of the trademarked expression falsely implies to consumers that the product is endorsed personally by Ali or is affiliated with him in some way. As detailed in its trademark-infringement complaint, the boxer’s company claims that the advertisement makes “commercial use of valuable property without authorization or compensation.”

According to the complaint, the advertisement also included press statements about the eReader that the complaint alleges are a “reinforcement of the persona of Muhammad Ali.” For instance, one blurb, from Computerworld magazine, describes the device as a “real contender.”

Finally, the suit also contends that Kobo’s conduct is likely to diminish, “if not destroy, the opportunity to license Muhammad Ali’s identity to the manufacturer of competitive devices and eliminates the ability for Muhammad Ali Enterprises LLC to offer any such manufacturer an exclusive license, which typically is of greater economic value.”

To find out if the lawsuit results in a knockout, please check back to my blog for updates.

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