Fore! Jack Nicklaus Sues Maker of Golf Training Technology for Trademark Infringement

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Golf legend Jack Nicklaus has sued PowerPro Sports LLC, alleging that they are unlawfully using his likeness and trademarks without his permission to promote a product.

Nicklaus Companies LLC, Jack Nicklaus’ corporate vehicle, has sued PowerPro in Florida federal court. PowerPro makes the Powerchute golf training technology, which the company claims improves golf swing through the use of aerodynamic drag. Nicklaus argues that PowerPro violated his right of publicity under Florida law, as well as violated the federal Lanham Act by engaging in false endorsement, trademark infringement, and unfair competition. In addition to seeking an injunction blocking the use of his likeness and trademarks, Nicklaus is also seeking damages, attorney fees, and costs.

According to the lawsuit, Nicklaus made an agreement with PowerPro that allowed the company to use videos and photographs of himself to promote their Powerchute. However, Nicklaus stated that the agreement was a personal favor to Jim Sowerwine, the maker of the Powerchute who was a friend of Nicklaus’ son, Gary. Nicklaus claimed that PowerPro could only use his likeness so long as Sowerwine was involved in the business. Sowerwine lost his financial interest in the business sometime between 2011 and 2015.

Nicklaus states that, in 2016, his company sent a cease and desist letter to PowerPro, asking the company to stop using the video and photographs. The letter also allegedly told PowerPro to stop using Nicklaus’ signature and other trademarks, which Nicklaus argued that he never gave the company permission to use. The lawsuit claimed that PowerPro responded by saying their marketing was conducted pursuant to Nicklaus’ oral consent, and suggested that the parties enter into a licensing agreement to resolve any infringement claims. Nicklaus stated that he and his company rejected the offer.

The founder of PowerPro, Tim Yablonowski, reacted to the lawsuit with surprise, claiming that he and his company did not engage in any wrongdoing. He claimed that his company met with Nicklaus and got permission to use his image in their advertising. He also stated that he “bought the IP from Sowerwine.” In a statement to Law360, Yablonowski said, “We shot the video, and now he’s suing us for it? I guess he doesn’t have enough money.” We will continue to monitor the case.