Monday, June 9, 2008

What Happens When Two Companies Really Don't Like Each Other...

Let's go back to last year shall we? If you recall, Topps was busy trying to sell itself to Michael Eisner's Tornante Group and Madison Dearborn Partners. Upper Deck decided to throw itself into the ring saying that they wanted to buy the Topps Company with an offer higher than Eisner's. When Topps wanted to proceed with the sale to the Tornante Group, UD sued to prevent the sale of Topps to Eisner's investment groups. In the end, UD cancelled the deal, citing difficulties working with the board. The stockholders, after months and months of bickering within Topps' own Board of Directors, agreed their shares to Eisner. The whole story is really intriguing and will make up another blog post for another day.

Then came UD's Michael "Buysner" card debacle. Then the Sweet Spot "Asterisk" autograph. Then UD inserts actual O-Pee-Chee (a brand that UD bought from Cadbury Schweppes a few years ago, the reason why they have the OPC line in hockey) cards into their baseball packs, as well as the creation of an insert set honoring legendary players using the 1969 OPC design. The last thing would not have been so bad, except that in every case, UD knowingly took stabs at their competition (Topps). Put it this way, the "buyback" cards, although they have the OPC design on them, are all Topps designs. And the "insert" set mocked the classic 1969 Topps set. And this was not the first time that UD took shots at incorporating Topps' designs into their products (see 2001-2003 UD Vintage, with their mockups of the 1963, 1971, and 1965 Topps designs).

Recently, Topps came to an agreement with CMG Worldwide, a company that represents the families and estates of deceased celebrities , acquiring the rights to create trading cards of 16 legendary players, most of whom where exclusive to Upper Deck, including:
  • Jackie Robinson
  • Walter Johnson
  • Ty Cobb
  • Tris Speaker
  • Honus Wagner
  • Johnny Mize
  • Pee Wee Reese
  • Jimmy Foxx
  • Thurman Munson
  • Rogers Hornsby
  • Lou Gehrig
  • Mel Ott
  • George Sisler
  • Christy Mathewson
  • Cy Young
  • Roy Campanella

Topps will be distributing products with these players beginning with Triple Threads and Allen & Ginter.

Although UD lost the rights to these stars, the company will still go forward with a set that somehow is still including Mel Ott, Jimmie Foxx, Rogers Hornsby, Thurman Munson, George Sisler, and Johnny Mize in one of its future products. And that has now caught Topps' attention.

Topps is now suing Upper Deck for trademark infringement because UD plans on using the names, images, and statistics of six of the players listed above. For more information, Elisabeth Butler Cordova of Crain's NY Business broke the story. Or you can click here for the Boston Globe's story.

More to the story as it becomes available. And you thought two companies were enough for the baseball card industry...


JayBee Anama

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