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Cardtoons v. Major League Baseball Players Association

United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit
95 F.3d 959 (10th Cir. 1996)


Cardtoons, L.C. (Cardtoons) (plaintiff), an Oklahoma corporation, produced baseball trading cards that parodied major league players. The cards featured animated caricatures of active players on the front and humorous commentary on the back. A person familiar with baseball could readily identify the player lampooned on the trading card. For example, a trading card parodying San Francisco Giants player Barry Bonds was named “Treasury Bonds,” and a card featuring the likeness of Ken Griffey, Jr., was called “Ken Sniffy, Jr.” After the trading cards were advertised for sale, the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) (defendant), the exclusive agent for all active players, ordered Cardtoons and its printer to halt production of the cards. The MLBPA also operated a group licensing program whereby it entered into licensing arrangements with various companies and vendors, collected any profits, and distributed revenues to individual players. There was no agreement between Cardtoons and the MLBPA. Cardtoons filed suit against the MLBPA and sought a declaratory judgment that it was authorized to produce the parody trading cards without the consent of the MLBPA. The district court held for Cardtoons and the MLBPA appealed.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Tacha, J.)

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