Judge Backs the Worm: Tattoo T-Shirt is Too Close for Comfort
May. 28, 1996
NEWARK, N.J. (AP) _ For the time being, Dennis Rodman's tattoos will remain on his body, not on T-Shirts. But he may have to bare his back in a public to make that ruling stick.
A federal judge ruled Tuesday that a New Jersey T-shirt maker appears to be unfairly profiting from Rodman's fame and tattoos. He issued a preliminary injunction continuing to bar Fanatix Apparel Inc. and its 24-year-old president from marketing a long-sleeve, cream-colored T-shirt that has images of tattoos on the back, sleeves and front.
U.S. District Judge Alfred M. Wolin, who had granted a restraining order sought by Rodman earlier this month, ruled following a half-hour hearing in federal court here. Rodman, whose Chicago Bulls clinched a spot in the NBA Finals on Monday, did not attend.
But Wolin also ruled that lawyers for T-shirt entrepreneur Micky Goldschmidt have the right to take a deposition from Rodman two weeks after the Bulls'season concludes. And, Wolin left open the possibility that Rodman could be required to remove his shirt to show the dozen tattoos on his upper body and arms.
Jules D. Zalon, Rodman's lawyer, said there are less intrusive methods to show opposing lawyers the tattoos, but added he has not decided whether to seek a protective order limiting what Rodman is required to do.
He likened Goldschmidt to a bootlegger capitalizing on Rodman's personality by selling T-shirts that depict tattoos ``virtually identical'' to those worn by the player.
Goldschmidt claims that few would equate the T-shirt with Rodman.
But Wolin, noting that invoices from Fanatix itself called the garment the ``Dennis Rodman Tattoo T-Shirt,'' said that buyers incorrectly believed they are getting an item endorsed by the player.
Rodman's name or image does not appear on the shirts, but Wolin examined one and said the designs were similar to those on Rodman's body.
Rodman has about a dozen tattoos on his upper body, including that of a baby's face. The T-shirt also features a baby's face.
``I am greatly offended and disturbed by having my tattoos, particularly my daughter's image, misappropriated and mass produced on a T-shirt and sold nationwide,'' Rodman said in a declaration attached to his lawsuit.
David S. Katz, Goldschmidt's lawyer, told the judge that the shirt's artist would testify the baby was the artist's nephew. He maintained that the shirts are only ``loosely based'' on those worn by Rodman.
Rodman's lawsuit, filed May 7, wants Fanatix to give him all profits from the shirts, any unsold merchandise and production equipment, and $1 million in damages.
The shirts, selling for over a year for about $20 in stores and via a Fanatix web site on the Internet, got a big boost when they were shown during a national telecast of a Bulls game this winter.
That led to huge sales of the ``bootleg'' shirts in major chain stores and supermarkets, especially around Chicago, Rodman lawyers said.
Goldschmidt had sought Rodman's endorsement for the product, but never received it. When Rodman's lawyers saw the shirts, they asked Fanatix and retailers to stop selling it, claiming the shirts are an ``unauthorized commercial exploitation of his identity.''
Goldschmidt has said he had sold about 4,000 to 5,000 shirts and had orders for 12,000 until Rodman's lawyers began writing letters to retailers. Fanatix continues to sell T-shirts depicting tattoos worn by rock stars.