LaMelo Ball, Puma Hit With New $200 Million Trademark Lawsuit by Former Business Partner

Alan Foster, the cofounder of the Big Baller Brand, has filed a new lawsuit against Charlotte Hornets point guard LaMelo Ball, his family’s business and Puma. He is seeking $200 million in damages.

According to a complaint filed on Nov. 6 in U.S. District Court in Central California, the one-time friend and business partner of the Ball family is alleging that LaMelo and his company, MB1 Enterprises, “knowingly engaged” in misappropriation, trademark infringement, trademark dilution, and other related “tortious acts” against him.

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Similarly, Foster also alleged in the suit that Puma desired to utilize the trademarks owned by him but chose instead to utilize marks that were “intentionally designed” to be confusingly similar.

FN has reached out to Big Baller Brand for comment. A spokesperson from Puma had no comment.

In the complaint, Foster claims that he helped the Ball family start the Big Baller Brand (BBB LLC) in 2016, where he provided loans to the family in exchange for at least 33 percent ownership in the company.

CHINO, CA - SEPTEMBER 02:  Alan Foster (L) and LaVar Ball attend Melo Ball's 16th Birthday on September 2, 2017 in Chino, California.  (Photo by Joshua Blanchard/Getty Images for Crosswalk Productions )
Alan Foster (L) and LaVar Ball seen together on Sept. 2, 2017 in Chino, Calif. Joshua Blanchard

The suit also states that LaMelo’s parents, LaVar and Tina, allegedly agreed in 2017 that Foster should spearhead efforts to create a brand for LaMelo. This led to Foster creating the name and design for LaMelo’s brand called “MB1” where “MB” stands for “Melo Ball” and the number “1” represents the number LaMelo wore on his basketball game jersey.

In August 2017, Foster stated that LaMelo’s first signature shoe – the MB1 – was released on LaMelo’s 16th birthday while he was still in high school.

“Alan executed a business model that helped launch LaMelo into a basketball marketing prodigy,” the complaint states. “For example, the debut of LaMelo’s MB1 signature sneaker was filmed during the reality show ‘Ball in the Family’ on Facebook Watch and published on major sports media outlets. LaMelo was pleased with his own MB1 signature basketball sneaker by BBB LLC. This birthday event launched the beginning of the MB1 global marketing campaign.”

Ultimately, the lawsuit argues that Foster created the groundwork for LaMelo’s commercial success; the 2020 third overall Charlotte Hornets pick went on to become the 2021 Rookie of the Year before being named an NBA All-Star in 2022.

“Given the fame that both Lonzo Ball and LaMelo Ball have obtained through their NBA careers and the worldwide appeal of Big Baller Brand, gained largely due to Alan’s marketing efforts and business acumen, the commercial value of the LaMelo Trademarks, Lonzo Ball Trademark, and BBB Trademark are estimated to far exceed $200 million,” the lawsuit states.

The relationship between Foster and the Ball family began to sour over financial tensions in 2019. Foster claims in the lawsuit that he was ousted from the BBB LLC, which was officially dissolved in early 2020, only for the Ball family to allegedly “fraudulently” transfer all of Foster’s trademarks to a newly formed company called BBB Inc.

Under the new company, Foster said in the complaint is when LaMelo inked his reported $100 million deal with Puma for signature shoes. “Leveraging their affiliation with LaMelo, Puma has manufactured, promoted, advertised, marketed, and sold, in the United States and around the world, footwear and related apparel that utilized the infringing trademarks and/or other marks that are confusingly similar to the LaMelo trademarks,” the lawsuit said.

“Puma’s infringing ‘MB.01’ sneakers are not genuine Big Baller Brand products,” the complaint added. “Alan did not manufacture or inspect the products bearing the infringing trademarks and he did not authorize Puma to make, promote, advertise, market, or sell the infringing ‘MB.01’ sneakers.”

In the end, Foster is asking the Court to permanently prohibit the Ball family from “continuing to engage in unfair, or fraudulent business practices” and prevent them from using his trademarks.

This isn’t the first time the Ball family had legal issues with Foster. Chicago Bulls point guard Lonzo Ball sued Foster for $2 million after he learned Foster had served prision time in 2002 for money laundering. Foster countersued both Lonzo and his father LaVar for breach of contract.

This is also not LaMelo Ball first lawsuit. In 2022, Ball’s former publicist Amber Johnson sued him for damages in excess of $10 million. The lawsuit claimed that Ball never paid Johnson the 10 percent due by contract when she helped facilitate his $100 million endorsement deal with Puma.

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