On April 29th Jason Murphy filed a lawsuit in Federal Court for the Central District of California against Gen-X Sports, Inc and its parent, Huffy Corporation. According to Murphy’s attorney, the move comes after the alleged unauthorized distribution of a 2002/03 Sims Jason Murphy pro-model snowboard. Murphy is bringing claims for invasion of right of publicity, unfair competition, and unjust enrichment and is seeking damages exceeding 200,000 dollars.
Pro-models are synonymous with snowboarding. However, what rights do riders have when it comes to companies using their likeness and names to help sell products? Atomic team rider and former Sims rider Jason Murphy is about to find out.
The charges brought by Murphy stem from unresolved negotiations of his pro contract after Gen-X bought the license to distribute Sims from previous owners Sims Distribution, who’s CEO was John Textor. Although Murphy had a pro-model snowboard on Sims while it was still owned by Sims Distribution when the license was acquired by Gen-X in May of 2002 all contracts with former Sims Distribution athletes (Murphy included) were deemed null and void.
According to Murphy’s lawyer, Anthony Davis, this is where problems occurred. Shortly after its June acquisition, Gen-X entered into contractual agreements with most of Sims Distribution’s former team riders offering Murphy fifteen dollars a board in royalties. Murphy, who had been earning a salary as well as on photo incentives and board royalties from Sims Distribution, asked for a higher 30 dollars a board. As outlined in the complaint submitted by Davis, “Murphy was in high demand, and could garner a pro rider agreement from several other manufacturers-offered to license his name and likeness for a royalty of 30 dollars a snowboard.”
Gen-X counter offered again with the fifteen dollar a board royalty and Murphy declined the offer electing to search for a new sponsorship deal with another manufacturer. In the claim to the courts, “At that point representatives from Gen-X told Murphy and his representatives that they would not distribute a Jason Murphy Pro Model Snowboard.”
However, shortly thereafter Gen-X began to distribute a 2002/03 Sims Jason Murphy Pro Model. Murphy contests that because of this allegedly “illegal distribution” he was unable to sign a new sponsorship agreement from another manufacturer that would include a pro-model. Although Murphy did sign a new two-year contract with Atomic, he contends that his reputation has been damaged by Gen-X’s widespread use of low-end distribution channels.
Bruce Teeters, spokesperson for the Huffy Corporation declined to comment on the pending lawsuit stating, “Generally, we don’t comment on litigations. And, in this case we haven’t yet been served with the lawsuit.”