Practice/Industry Group Overview
The Sports, Entertainment & Media practice group includes more than a dozen lawyers who have tried and won significant lawsuits for sports, entertainment and media concerns in courts and arbitral tribunals throughout the United States and Europe, and advised on and closed significant transactions involving a variety of sports, entertainment and media-related assets. In addition, the group provides counseling on a wide range of issues to sports federations and governing bodies, sports teams, athletes and agents, media companies, musicians, artists and publishers.
The group brings an inter-disciplinary and international approach to our representation of sports, entertainment and media clients, calling upon our extensive worldwide resources not only in litigation but in such disciplines as intellectual property, corporate, securities, banking and finance, securitization, governmental relations and other fields whenever appropriate to deliver expert, efficient and cost-effective solutions to our clients' problems.
Mayer Brown has broad expertise in sports-related cases at every level, including professional, Olympic, collegiate and local. We represent national governing bodies, sports federations, professional teams, team owners, colleges, municipal and private corporations, lenders and investors, sports agents and prominent athletes. We have litigated sports cases before the International Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Switzerland, and before CAS' ad hoc division for the 2004 Summer Olympic Games in Athens. We have also tried cases before the arbitral tribunals of Olympic federations in the U.S. and abroad, and in courts throughout the United States and Europe. We regularly represent USA Track & Field (USATF) and the United States Golf Association (USGA), the national governing bodies for their respective sports in the U.S. Our representation of clients in sports matters has encompassed a wide range of issues, including federation rule-making powers and governance issues; questions of athlete eligibility; drug-testing programs; sale of broadcasting rights; development of arenas and sports venues; trademark licensing, endorsement and sponsorship; and legal questions relating to sports equipment, among many other matters.
Our lawyers have been at the center of some of the most prominent and cutting-edge sports litigations and arbitrations in recent years. Among Mayer Brown's recent victories are the successful defense of USATF in a highly publicized proceeding initiated by the International Association of Athletics Federations regarding the confidentiality of U.S. drug-testing results, and the successful defense of three top-ranked professional tennis players against doping charges. Mayer Brown's vigorous defense of the players led to the discovery and correction of a nandrolone contamination problem in products distributed to players by the Association of Tennis Professionals, the governing body for the men's tour.
The Mayer Brown Sports Law Group has the distinct advantage of including several lawyers who recently served as in-house counsel for major professional sports teams, including as general counsel for the Indianapolis Colts football team, general counsel of the Houston Rockets basketball team, and in-house counsel for the Milwaukee Brewers baseball team.
Mayer Brown represents television networks and studios, motion picture production companies, record companies, a Broadway theatre production company, actors, authors and artists in a variety of matters, including disputes over contractual rights and obligations, royalty calculations, copyright and trademark rights, merchandising questions, and antitrust and unfair competition claims. Among other matters, we have represented a movie studio in defending against an idea misappropriation claim by a purported screenwriter, a record company in establishing New York common-law copyright protection for pre-1972 sound recordings which are not protected by the federal copyright statute, a music company in a challenge to its calculation of royalties over a multi-year period, and a famous actress in fraud and breach of fiduciary duty claims against her former agent. We also represented the underwriters of the "Bowie Bonds" in the groundbreaking transaction which securitized the future royalty stream from David Bowie's portfolio of music.
Mayer Brown has wide-ranging experience in media-related matters at every level. We represent a national media company and various trade journal publishers regarding a variety of issues unique to the media industry. We have also represented a number of clients in defamation and invasion of privacy claims. We have litigated media-related issues in the state and federal courts, at both the trial and appellate levels.
Professional Athletes, Sports Agents and Players Associations
We have represented top professional athletes on a wide range of legal issues, including eligibility questions, cases before anti-doping tribunals in various sports such as track & field and tennis, endorsement and licensing deals, contract claims and estate planning. We have also represented sports agents, including defending an agent from a professional malpractice claim brought by his client, an NBA player. In addition, one of our partners represented the NFL Players Association, the NBA Players Association and the Hockey Players Association in various litigation matters. Another of our partners, while an Assistant United States Attorney, prosecuted the participants in a nationwide conspiracy to produce and sell sports memorabilia carrying forged autographs of famous athletes, in a criminal enforcement action known as Operation Foul Ball.
Sports Federations, Leagues and Governing Bodies
We represent USA Track & Field, the national governing body for track & field in the U.S., in various litigation matters, including litigation arising from USATF's drug testing program. We have also acted as counsel in institutional arbitrations regarding regulatory disputes between Italian sports federations and the Italian Olympic Committee, advised on disputes between Italian sports federations and international bodies and acted as counsel for several Italian sports federations in litigation brought by athletes and third parties. We have represented the National Collegiate Athletic Association in significant antitrust litigation arising from the NCAA's rule-making activities, and the National Basketball Association in an antitrust challenge to the NBA's television broadcasting policies. Our long representation of the United States Golf Association, the governing body of golf in the U.S., has involved us in antitrust and other litigation regarding golf equipment, trademark litigation regarding golf handicaps and other issues, and unfair competition litigation regarding hospitality facilities at golf championships. We also serve as major outside counsel for The Big Ten Conference, America's most successful collegiate conference, in a variety of matters, including the sale of television broadcasting rights.
Professional Teams and Sports Venues
We are primary outside counsel for the Indianapolis Colts Football Team, and one of our partners recently served as general counsel for the Colts. We also represent England Football Enterprises, a subsidiary of The Football Association, the governing body of football in England, in the building of The National Football Centre. We have represented two municipal corporations, the Illinois Sports Facility Authority and the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority, in connection with the siting, development and construction of major sports facilities. We have represented commercial paper conduits in the securitization of contractually-obligated income streams from National Football League and National Hockey League venues, and private placement investors in the structured financing of a Major League Baseball stadium.
Intellectual Property Owners in Licensing Matters
We have represented three major golf courses (Pebble Beach Co., Resorts of Pinehurst and Sea Pines Resort) in litigation regarding intellectual property rights in golf course design. We represent Umbro in the licensing of soccer apparel worldwide, as well as in connection with the broadcast of soccer games on American television. We also represent Nike on licensing matters and in litigation to enforce intellectual property rights. We have advised a number of NBA athletes in contract disputes with sports memorabilia companies that claimed that the athletes had breached personal services contracts. We represent the Estate of Walter Payton, star Chicago Bears running back, in the protection and licensing of his name, image and likeness.
Television Networks and Studios
We have represented a television network in an action to enforce the exclusivity terms of an actor's contract and in "block booking" disputes with profit participants of motion picture films shown on the network. We have also represented a television studio in a dispute with talent concerning merchandising rights to the name and likeness of a well-known character on a television series. We have represented The National Broadcasting Company (NBC) and its wholly owned TV station (WMAQ-TV Chicago) in a variety of matters including defamation, prior restraint, fair use and invasion of privacy. We have also represented them in commercial matters such as breach of broadcast agreements and misappropriation of copyrighted materials.
Motion Picture Production Companies
We have expertise representing motion picture production companies in contractual disputes with talent, in idea misappropriation claims, and in movie and television net profit-participation disputes.
We have represented major record companies in numerous disputes, including royalty disputes, litigation over the ownership of and accounting for recording and music publishing rights and antitrust and unfair competition claims.
Broadway Theatre Production Company
We represent a major Broadway theater organization on an ongoing basis in various matters, including trademark protection and unfair competition. We also represent various local theatre groups on a variety of matters.
We have represented the publishers of trade journals and trade association newsletters in various matters, including claims of defamation, trade libel and prior restraint, fair use, invasion of privacy and unfair competition. We have represented media companies in defamation lawsuits and defended other clients in defamation matters.
We have represented many performing artists in litigation, including a Grammy award-winning R&B artist in a wide variety of copyright, commercial and contractual disputes; the former lead singer of a 1970s mega band in a trademark and copyright dispute with other band members; and a famous television actress in a fraud and breach of fiduciary duty suit against her former agent. We also represented the author of a popular book in a contract dispute with the production companies that helped produce her book into a movie.