Apr 1, 2010

Clearly, its just not Upper Deck’s year.

Last week the NHL signed a licensing deal with Panini America to produce hockey cards along with Upper Deck, which previously held an exclusive NHL license.  That’s all well and good, except for the fact that any exclusive autograph deals and exclusives previously held by NHL players with Upper Deck are now nullified.

In his letter, Adam Larry, the Director of Licensing and Associate Counsel for the NHLPA, noted that “both Upper Deck and Panini will be permitted to use images of ALL NHL players in their products” — but also that those two manufacturers  “are the only trading card companies that players should sign autographs or appear on packaging for.”

The letter states that “Neither Upper Deck nor Panini can sign a player to an exclusive autograph deal” and that “Neither Panini nor Upper Deck can: (I) preclude a player’s image from appearing on trading cards made by the other company; or (II) prevent memorabilia (jerseys, equipment, etc.) of a player from being included in trading cards made by the other company.”

Interestingly, the only exclusives that can be signed are for packaging deals where the players can endorse a product by appearing on the boxes or wrappers of products.

The letter also states that “in the event a player currently has a deal with Upper Deck that runs past June 30, 2010, that provides for exclusivity in the trading card category beyond packaging, those provisions will now be null and void. (However, Upper Deck must still abide by all the other terms of the agreement (such as payment obligations).” (via Beckett Blog)

Without knowing any of the monetary details behind trading card licensing deals, you would at least have to assume that exclusivity carries some form of monetary value.  Either in price to the consumer or maybe in the amount you have to pay for the exclusive athlete.  Upper Deck used to enjoy that value…no longer.  Not surprisingly, Upper Deck will be producing fewer NHL cards this year…not that the NHLPA is worried.

The letter also notes that Upper Deck will not be producing as many NHL sets as it had in its previous five years as an exclusive but that the NHLPA expects “the shortfall to be more than made up for however by the new licensee Panini.”

Things are almost going hilariously bad for Upper Deck in 2010.  You may remember that they’ve already had two losing lawsuits this year regarding Yu-Gi-Oh cards and unlicensed MLB cards, and now they’ll be producing fewer NHL cards due to their loss of exclusivity.

Things could be going better, no?

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