LeBron goes to war with SA’s own ‘King James’
● 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 kingjamesinc.co.za — 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.”
Retired South African kickboxing champion Andrew Thomson, left, and basketball legend LeBron James are battling over the right to the trademark King James.