Roberto Clemente's three sons: Roberto Clemente Jr., Luis Roberto Clemente, and Roberto Enrique Clemente sued the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and its Governor, Hon. Pedro R. Pierluisi Urrutia, among others. Pierluisi imposed a mandatory $21 commemorative license plate purchase on Puerto Ricans who acquire a license in 2022. The yellow license plate celebrates the 50th anniversary of Roberto Clemente's 3,000th hit with a picture of Clemente, the number "21," and the phrase "3,000 hits." Plaintiffs say they did not authorize any use of their Father's likeness.
The plaintiffs say the revenue from this government action are funneled in their entirety to the Roberto Clemente Sports District Fund, administered by the Department of Treasury for the exclusive use of the Department of Sports and Recreation. "The Government has informed publicly that it expects to obtain $15,000,000.00 from these endeavors in year 2022." Competing with that notion, the Clemente children explain that they are not associated with the license plate program and never authorized it. The plaintiffs claim they are the sole owners of the Roberto Clemente trademark, his right of publicity, and his likeness. A search in the United States Patent and Trademark Office shows that Roberto Clemente is a registered trademark owned by Clemente Properties, Inc., a company owned by Clemente's sons.
"It is hard to imagine a more appalling use of the Roberto Clemente mark," the Plaintiffs say. "The Roberto Clemente mark is being used as a source of funds destined to destroy his dream and his creation: Ciudad Deportiva."
They say Puerto Rican people have assumed they were behind it and, as a result, have "suffered innumerable attacks and disdains in the televised, written and on-line press, in social networks, in events, and during every day activities." "The People righteously rejected the imposition of a charge for the use of the Roberto Clemente mark and likeness in the license plates and vehicle certification tags, in times when our economy is suffering and the cost of living in Puerto Rico increases every day."
Plaintiffs say on March 30, 2022, they notified Defendants through the Secretary of Justice about the trademark infringement and lack of authorization for its use. However, they claim, Defendants continued to "knowingly" and "intentionally" misappropriate the mark. Plaintiffs filed suit for Lanham Act violation in the United States District Court for the District of Puerto Rico, seeking injunctive relief and damages. They retained intellectual property management agency CMG Worldwide.
Jason Morrin is a recent graduate of Hofstra Law School. He was President of Hofstra’s Sports and Entertainment Law Society. He will be joining Zumpano, Patricios, & Popok as a law clerk, awaiting July, 2022 Bar Exam results. He can be found on Twitter @Jason_Morrin.