LeBron goes to war with SA’s own ‘King James’

Sunday Times - - Front Page - By BON­GANI FUZILE

● Bas­ket­ball leg­end LeBron James is ac­cus­tomed to win­ning. But he may have met his match in burly re­tired South African kick­boxer An­drew “Ice­berg” Thom­son.

The two heavy­weights are in a le­gal bat­tle over who has the right to be called “the king”.

Lawyers for the trade­mark com­pany of the Na­tional Bas­ket­ball Association su­per­star, who plays for the Cleve­land Cava­liers, have in­structed Thom­son to with­draw an ap­pli­ca­tion to regis­ter the trade­mark King James Inc and delete his do­main name king­ — or face lit­i­ga­tion.

They claim James owns the trade­mark for King James and has li­censed the trade­mark to Nike for cloth­ing and ac­ces­sories.

But Thom­son, whose full name is James An­drew Thom­son and who is known by the name King James in kick­box­ing cir­cles, said he would not be bul­lied by James’s lawyers.

James “may be the king in Amer­ica, but I am the king in Africa, and threat­en­ing me with­out know­ing me means you are mak­ing a mis­take”, he said.

“I was a pro­fes­sional fighter for 18 years. I fought all over the world in kick­box­ing and Thai box­ing. I trade­marked King James in Africa and also have a cloth­ing com­pany un­der the same name. I have mod­els who are wear­ing my cloth­ing.

“We are in the process of a le­gal bat­tle and his lawyers tried some le­gal pres­sure, but my re­sponse was that he can buy my trade­mark, or pay me roy­al­ties on ev­ery King James prod­uct sold in Africa. My lawyers are han­dling the mat­ter,” said Thom­son, who won sev­eral in­ter­na­tional kick­box­ing ti­tles be­fore re­tir­ing in 2015.

In a let­ter dated April 19 and seen by the Sun­day Times, lawyer Deb­bie Mar­riott, of Adams & Adams in Pretoria, act­ing for LBJ Trade­marks, said Thom­son’s trade­mark will “di­lute our client’s rep­u­ta­tion” and “di­min­ish the value of its trade­mark and ul­ti­mately cause eco­nomic harm to it”.

She re­ferred to James as “the fa­mous bas­ket­ball player who is known through­out the world, in­clud­ing in South Africa” and pointed out that he was listed last year by Time Mag­a­zine as one of the 100 most in­flu­en­tial peo­ple in the world.

“Our client has ar­ranged to li­cense the King James trade­mark to Nike, which has made ex­ten­sive and wide­spread use of the King James trade­mark around the world in var­i­ous cloth­ing and ac­ces­sories, sport­ing goods and re­lated ar­ti­cles,” she said.

“Our client has ac­quired rights at com­mon law in the King James trade­mark in South Africa.”

Thom­son’s lawyer, Don Em­slie, of Em­slie At­tor­neys in East Lon­don, con­firmed re­ceiv­ing the let­ter and said the at­tor­neys were “in talks”.

In his re­spond­ing let­ter to Mar­riott, he said he could find “no ev­i­dence” of Nike us­ing the King James trade­mark.

“Also, a Google search of the his­tory of LeBron James’s shoe range in­di­cates that he has never used the trade­mark King James in a shoe range. Fur­ther­more I can find no ev­i­dence of your client, through Nike or oth­er­wise, us­ing the trade­mark ‘King James’ in South Africa.”

Em­slie said Thom­son “has elected the trade­mark name as a trib­ute to him­self and with no in­ten­tion of pass­ing-off on Lebron James. The trade­mark is in­tended to be for mar­tial arts ap­parel.”

Thom­son, who is also known as the African Gang­ster, told the Sun­day Times he would not give in to the “le­gal pres­sure”.

He said: “I’ve been a pro­fes­sional fighter since 1998 and LeBron started in 2003. I’ve been us­ing my King James brand for years, be­fore his brand.

“Is it be­cause he hap­pens to be a su­per­star that I must lose out? That is not go­ing to hap­pen.”

Pic­tures: Alan Ea­son and Getty Images

Re­tired South African kick­box­ing cham­pion An­drew Thom­son, left, and bas­ket­ball leg­end LeBron James are bat­tling over the right to the trade­mark King James.

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