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Court denies The Brandr Group’s temporary restraining order motion against EA Sports

Nakos updated headshotby:Pete Nakos06/30/23

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EA Sports College Football video game picked up a win in the court room Friday.

United States District Judge Haywood Gilliam rejected The Brandr Group’s motion to issue a temporary restraining order against EA Sports in the Northern District of California court. The group licensing company filed the action earlier this week in hopes to delay the game, arguing that the video gaming brand was threating TBG’s clients to comply or be excluded from the game.

In his written response Friday, Gilliam stated The Brandr Group had not established a “extraordinary remedy.”

Attorneys Darren Heitner and Mit Winter were both in agreement that Fridays news is not a positive sign for the group licensing company’s shot of winning its lawsuit. TBG had initially sued EA earlier this month, arguing the brand attempted to retain players’ rights while evading TBG’s group licensing contracts with more than 54 Division I institutions.

“I think its important to initially point out a motion for a TRO is seeking extraordinary relief,” Heitner told On3. “The odds were stacked against the plaintiff from the start.”

The Brandr Group declined to comment.

Securing the TRO would have set the stage for The Brandr Group to file for an injunction, which would have forced EA to not make any moves on the game until the lawsuit produced a decision. If the lawsuit would have delayed EA’s timeline in producing the college football video game, those bets appear to be off.

A Case Management Conference had been set for Sept. 26, but Gilliam has moved the call to Aug. 15.

The Brandr Group ‘loses a lot of leverage’ against EA Sports

While the decision was not a surprise, the court went ahead and outlined the likelihood of success on TBG’s merits in its lawsuit.

The court noted that even if athletes’ IP and name, image and likeness are used in the game, the rights are not licensed together nor contingent on one another.

Last month, EA Sports contracted OneTeam Partners to facilitate college athletes’ likeness. Details of the agreements are still murky, but a source indicated to On3 that the cash pool for athletes was in the $5 million neighborhood, which would pay out to $500 per player. Athletes will reportedly not make royalties off the game, either.

Multiple sources across the group licensing industry have indicated to On3 that The Brandr Group’s decision to sue is just as much about OneTeam. A competitor in the college licensing realm, the two were previously doing business together. OneTeam made an investment for a minority stake in TBG in April 2021.

“While this isn’t the end of the case, I think The Brandr Group loses a lot of leverage that it may have had in negotiations and trying to resolve early on,” Heitner said. “If I’m representing EA, I’m thinking I’ve got a very strong case now and the court has signaled as such.”

In his closing remarks in the written statement, the United States District judge for the Northern District of California court noted that the only thing at stake in this case against EA Sports is the monetary benefit of The Brandr Group.

“What appears to be at stake here, then, is simply the possible monetary benefit that Plaintiff could receive from creating co-branding licensing opportunities that package a school’s IP and students’ NIL rights together,” Gilliam wrote. “Plaintiff attempts to couch the loss of this co-branding opportunity as irreparable harm. But this too falls short.”