True Religion runs afoul of NBA ahead of All-Star Weekend

At least one clothing company is trying to cash in on the NBA All-Star Game to illegally sell its own products, FOX 46 has learned.

True Religion ran afoul of the NBA after it started using the NBA's trademarks to sell merchandise without permission.

"True Religion will be selling an exclusive NBA All-Star t-shirt" for $69 in Charlotte, read a public relations e-mail, sent to media outlets, including FOX 46, advertising the shirt. The dates of the NBA All-Star Weekend are printed on the sleeves.

While True Religion's press and marketing materials hyped up its pricey shirt as "an exclusive NBA All-Star t-shirt," the company, by its own admission, has no agreement with the NBA to use any of its trademarks to sell merchandise. 

Doing so is illegal, according to contract attorney Walter Bowers. He says a similar issue arose during the CIAA tournament, when companies tried to use the name without permission. 

The NBA is aware of the sitaution and is looking into the matter.

Avoiding trademark violations is the reason companies that sell TVs in January, for instance, refer to the Super Bowl as "the big football game" in their commercials. 

"To clarify, True Religion has not used NBA or NBA All-Star Weekend in their marketing materials nor on the shirt design," said Carol Moniz, who handles public relations for True Religion, three hours after she sent an email to FOX 46 advertising: "True Religion will be selling an exclusive NBA All-Star t-shirt."

The shirt, which is only being sold in Charlotte, does not mention the NBA or the All-Star Weekend and therefore would not violate any trademarks, according to Bowers. 

It is unclear if True Religion has been in contact with the NBA or if the company will change the wording on future advertising and marketing materials. 

Asked to respond, a different public relations person, Liz Gemmill, sent back an e-mail saying: "True Relgion declines to comment."