Litigation over endorsement agreement pits Nike against runner

California courts get their fair share of contract disputes dealing with endorsement agreements. An endorsement agreement gives a company the use of a celebrity’s name, likeness and reputation for the promotion of the company’s product. One of the most popular and lucrative kinds of endorsement agreements is the endorsement by athletes of the various athletic products that consumers buy. These contracts, however, can lead to litigation dealing with a wide range of legal issues.

Nike is one of the biggest purchasers of endorsements by sports celebrities. The company recently sued Boris Berian, a top contender for the U.S. Olympic team in the 800 meter run. Nike alleges in the federal court lawsuit that Berian breached the endorsement contract between the two by signing recently to endorse Nike’s competitor, New Balance footwear and apparel. Berian has used Twitter to make a public denial of the claim, saying that his contract with Nike was up in December.

However, Nike says that it had a right to meet any offer after the expiration of the contract. Nike says that it did match the New Balance offer to Berian, and that Berian was legally bound to take Nike’s offer. While this issue plays out in the court, Nike is asking for a restraining order against Berian to prevent him from wearing any New Balance products in the Olympic trials and while the case is working its way through the court.

Generally, in order to get an injunction or restraining order, the plaintiff must allege that it would suffer irreparable damage if the defendant is allowed to take certain actions. Such relief is only granted where monetary relief would not give full or adequate reparations to the plaintiff. The key to the resolution of this litigation will likely be the wording of the endorsement agreement and whether Nike did have a right to meet any offer that was tendered. This federal litigation would likely have a similar outcome in a California federal court as it would have in another district. 

Source:, “Nike sues Olympic hopeful, seeks restraining order“, Matthew Kish, June 2, 2016

Tags: Contract Disputes

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