I can't help but shake my head at the latest shenanigans pulled by Upper Deck. As most of you have heard by now, the folks in Carlsbad, CA are once again facing litigation. This time for the unauthorized use of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's likeness in their upcoming product release of NCAA Greats of the Game Basketball. I needed a couple of days to wrap my head around the blatant disregard this company continues to display for the basic rules of law and sound business practices before commenting.
At a time when the company needs to regroup, lay low, and not make waves, they instead pull a stunt like this, which, when all is said and done, will cost them something they don't have a lot of right now, i imagine, cash. Coming on the heels of multiple legal hurdles, injunctions, and lawsuits, the suits at Upper Deck seem to be spending more time lately in the courtroom than the board room.
Their rival, Panini America, just a few years ago, when they were still operating as Donruss, faced similar circumstances of losing multiple sports trading card licenses with no other product category to fall back on and fill the revenue void. Upper Deck, fortunately for them, has its hands in authenticated memorabilia, trading card games, and non-sport trading cards also, to help, at least, temporarily stop the bleeding.
It just seems irrational to me that a company would knowingly choose this fight. Did they think Kareem would simply ignore this situation? Doubtful. Some bean counter worked out some empirical mathematical formula and determined that Kareem's presence in the product vs the cost of legal action was worth the calculated risk. Or maybe I am giving them too much credit. Regardless of the logic, (or lack-there-of) now doesn't seem the time to gamble.
For the first time in years, they are facing competition in the hockey trading card market, their ONLY league licensed sport, from Panini, while simultaneously being required to reduce the number of brands they release in that niche. Instead of plotting a way to dominate market share through an innovative product offering, they are going to have to divert resources in money, time and PR to deal with this pending litigation.
Back in April I wrote a post detailing what I though needed to be done to position Upper Deck for a rebound in the future. None of them have happened, which either means, I don't know what I am talking about, don't have all the information, or the company is too egotistical to make the necessary decisions to come out of their current circumstances as a viable entity in the market poised for recovery.
It is going to be YEARS, before they get their licensing back in ANY sport other than hockey. It's time to accept their role as a little fish in a big pond and start acting appropriately.