By CHRIS OLDS | Beckett Media
The National Hockey League‘s new card licensing agreement announced last week that allows Panini America to produce hockey cards along with previous exclusive licensee Upper Deck prevents exclusive autograph deals and nullifies past exclusives that players may have signed previously, according to a letter sent to NHL players and agents by an NHLPA official.
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 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.”
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).”
Terms of autographs agreements can’t be dictated by the NHL or the Players Association, nor can the players be forced to sign with a company. Both are issues also addressed by the letter.
The letter also addresses signing stickers for companies other than the two official NHL card licensees:
“As always, unless you are receiving small signature labels directly from Panini, Upper Deck, or the NHLPA, we strongly advise that players not sign labels for other autograph dealers as there is no way to control where labels will end up once a player has signed them.”
Chris Olds is the editor of Beckett Baseball. Have a comment, question or idea? Send an e-mail to him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter by clicking here.