Updated: Oct 18, 2022
An eyebrow-raising lawsuit has been filed against Michael Finley, Mavericks' Vice President of Basketball Operations and former NBA star. Here is the full caption:
The plaintiff in the complaint is seeking $35 million with a curious claim that he devised the business name and idea for "Aquafina," the water brand. While the plaintiff here doesn't make an outward legal claim as to why he is entitled to the requested money, this lawsuit appears to be for misappropriation of a trade secret. Still, it's not entirely clear if the plaintiff is making that specific claim from what the complaint reads.
Of note, the complaint- filed in the Middle District of Florida, Fort Myers Division - is largely hand-written and seemingly done by the plaintiff, himself.
Per the court filing, the plaintiff claims that the name "Aquafina" was his idea, created in honor of and for Finley. He seems to have arrived at the name by a simple calculus: water= "aqua" and Finley= "fina"... I guess making Aquafina? If true, this would make for a very interesting fun fact in basketball circles.
However, while the plaintiff writes "Michael Finley of Aquafina," I can't find any indication, anywhere, that Finley is somehow connected to the water brand in an official capacity or otherwise. In order for Finley to be a culpable party, he would likely need to have some connection to or profit from the plaintiff's work in creating the brand. On that note, Aquafina's current CEO is the other defendant in the case. Curiously, though, the actual brand Aquafina and its parent company, PepsiCo, are not named in the case.
This is truly a bizarre court filing but I guess it gets some points for creativity. Meanwhile, this is not the first time Aquafina, or its parent company, PepsiCo, have been hit with a misappropriation lawsuit.
In April of 2009, two Wisconsin men filed suit against PepsiCo, alleging that they came up with the business idea for Aquafina in 1981, and a confidentiality agreement was breached when that idea was stolen. Pepsi failed to respond and the men initially won a $1.26 billion judgment!
The immense victory didn't last long, though. Weeks later, said judgment was vacated by the same judge after PepsiCo's attorneys finally offered their attention. The claims were time-barred, as there was just a six-year statute of limitations.
If you ask me, this lawsuit is likely destined to fail as well given the timing of the events vs. when the lawsuit was filed. Still, I call on the internet to determine whether the true origins of Aquafina are rooted in NBA greatness.
Jason Morrin is a third-year law student at Hofstra Law School in New York. He is President of the Hofstra Sports and Entertainment Law Society and is a law clerk at Geragos & Geragos. He can be followed on Twitter and Instagram @Jmorr1.