If you pay much attention to sneakers, you might know that the agreement between Nike and the Bryant Estate for Nike’s line of Kobe sneakers recently expired. Although Kobe started his career with Adidas, he changed to Nike in 2003, and he stayed there for the rest of his life. Many people expected the estate to reach a deal with Nike to continue the partnership, but the deal has officially expired without any sort of agreement being reached. Some people speculated that the Bryant Estate may have been allowing the agreement to get closer to expiring to leverage Nike into a more favorable deal. But a statement released by Vanessa Bryant indicated that the dealbreaker may have been Nike’s unwillingness to enter into an agreement for perpetuity. Of course, we may never know, but what we do know is that the deal has expired. So what now?
Well, if the uptick in activity at the Trademark Office is any indication of what’s to come, we may see the late Mamba’s estate launch its own brand. On or around March 23, 2021, Kobe Bryant, LLC filed applications for numerous trademarks related to logos or terms associated with Kobe and his family. The marks include: Play Gigi’s Way, Mamba and Mambacita, Baby Mambas, the Mamba logo, Mambacita, Lady Mambas, Mamba, Kobe Bryant, and more. These applications were filed in connection with clothing, headwear, and footwear. So, if one were speculating, you might assume that Kobe Bryant, LLC is looking to launch its own brand of apparel. Of course, you could also speculate that the Bryant Estate is simply protecting its rights in these marks and that it will later license the rights to another company like Nike or Adidas. My bet is on the former.
Nike drew significant criticism over time for releasing small batches of Kobe’s apparel, resulting in many fans being excluded from ownership or having to pay exorbitant amounts to buy the apparel from verified resellers like StockX. This problem isn’t exclusive to Kobe apparel. It happens with Jordan apparel and other apparel sold by Nike. I have yet to be able to purchase a pair of shoes through one of Nike’s “drawings” and have been relegated to StockX on numerous occasions. It’s quite frustrating. And it seems Vanessa Bryant recognized this issue, as she also mentioned in her statement that the goal is to ensure that Kobe’s fans are able to obtain and wear his products. She said she will continue to “fight for that.” It seems that she could resolve that issue if Kobe Bryant, LLC launches its own brand, and I believe that’s exactly what Vanessa Bryant plans for it to do.
We will keep an eye on this developing issue and report back. It’s always interesting what you can learn from activity at the USPTO. Stay tuned.