Upper Deck gives update on its MLBPA license

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By Susan Lulgjuraj | Beckett Sports Card Monthly Editor

LAS VEGAS – One year ago today, Upper Deck announced that it had acquired an MLB Players Association license.

But in the last year, collectors have not seen a single baseball product from the company.

“We put together a couple of products last year, including Fleer Retro, and we weren’t happy with how they came out,” Upper Deck President Jason Masherah told Beckett Media. “Basically, we scrapped them and started over.”

Upper Deck’s last baseball release was 2012 SP Signature Edition, an MLBPA-only product that featured autographs but no pictures of players. Before that, Upper Deck released a product in 2010 even though Topps has had an exclusive with MLB Properties license since 2009.

That set resulted in a lawsuit by MLB Properties for use of licensed trademarks.

“Our feeling is that having a delay since the last time we had produced a baseball product, if we didn’t do it right, everyone was going to be extremely disappointed,” Masherah said.

Upper Deck faces different challenges than Panini America, which also has an MLBPA license and not a Major League Baseball Properties license. Upper Deck is still under restrictions from the lawsuit settlement with MLB Properties in 2010.

Along with the terms that were disclosed, Upper Deck paid several million dollars, but also has restrictions on how it could produce cards.

As term of the settlement, Upper Deck agreed it will not make any new sets of cards using MLB logos, uniforms, trade dress, or Club color combinations; and it also agreed it will not airbrush, alter or block MLB marks in future products.

That requires Upper Deck to find different ways to use baseball players on cards that is difficult – as UD discovered when the products were being created.

“I think it is important for us to get it right,” Masherah said. “What we saw was not acceptable.”

Upper Deck is working on a product now that Masherah feels is very strong. However, he wasn’t ready to offer more information on the product including a release date.

Susan Lulgjuraj is an editor at Beckett Media. You can email her here with questions, comments or ideas. Follow her on Twitter here. Follow Beckett Media on Facebook and Twitter.

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  1. David Johnson 18 March, 2014 at 15:28

    I would think a Studio style set would be the best fit for Upper Deck to do, considering their restrictions. However that would require more photo time with players, so it could prove to be more difficult to do. I will be very interested to see what they finally come out with.

  2. Jason K 18 March, 2014 at 15:45

    HA! Chris, that was awesome.

    The only thing I can think that they would do with such restrictions is an autograph only release. While I think there is a market for something like that, it would have to be done right for me to be interested (on card only, no redemptions). Can UD pull it off? I have my doubts, but I hope they prove me wrong.

  3. Chris 18 March, 2014 at 17:35

    The only way I could see it working (without it looking like an unlicensed POS) is to do a 1995 FLAIR Wave of the Future style set with close-ups or a 1993 leaf studio heritage series where they dress up in 1920’s uniforms.

  4. Corky 19 March, 2014 at 00:59

    Those are some severe restrictions, essentially UD is limited to up close and cropped images or in training gear (or worse non-baseball clothing). I understand that UD put themselves in this position with the 2010 baseball release but is this going to force Upper Deck to start releasing cards of Albert Puljos playing poker and Bryce Harper in his swimming pool?

    I guess this is at least a start where UD can take a positive step to possibly earning an MLB license, if the MLB ever realizes that most collectors do not care for the limited licensing agreements.

  5. Tom Waldron 19 March, 2014 at 09:01

    The real problem with the “hobby” is exclisive liscences not doubt.
    Is it me or do we want innovation again and Ud while had made some really dumb moves.
    They have paid the price I say give them and others the outright liscence and tighten up on Fakes in the industry.
    Ud has in the past the Best Photography and Players ie Griffey Bonds Jordon Lebron Kobe etc.
    Nobody like a card MLPA no logos I don’t care if you put RC or Prospect looks like crap.
    I don’t see how the major sports industrys make more with limiting 1 company to me it really is collusion. I want offial licensed product I want press pass with actual uniforms of players.
    Somebody tell me why we have this now and only a few companies didn’t in past.
    This is the real reason the hobby is lackluster at best.
    Tom W.

  6. Michael Marrufo 1 April, 2014 at 09:18

    why don’t they just settle and get to making baseball cards again we need upper deck baseball cards back…

    • Susan Lulgjuraj 1 April, 2014 at 10:39

      Michael, the stipulations were part of the settlement with MLB Properties.

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