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MLB claims victory against Upper Deck ....


A nine-month stretch of utter confusion in the nutty world of modern baseball cards has presumably come to an end with word yesterday that Major League Baseball has settled its lawsuit against Upper Deck.

Press releases can present wildly divergent interpretations outcomes, but the MLB version seems fairly straightforward in outlining the terms of the settlement, with barely a lick of spin added and a minimum of official gloating.

Upper Deck will pay MLB Properties more than $2.4 million from unpaid licensing fees prior to 2010, and will ante up a “substantial sum of monies” to pay for the unlicensed cards (three sets) already issued in 2010, the total undisclosed as part of the confidential end of the settlement.

That settlement payment apparently permits the three products to avoid an ungainly recall situation, which while maybe not as difficult as rounding up millions of Toyotas, is still a giant pain in the butt that probably serves no one very effectively.

I got a kick out of the seemingly redundant wording that the settlement for the infringing 2010 cards would be addressed by payment of a “substantial sum of monies.” As opposed to taking in a couple of thousand 1989 Upper Deck Ken Griffey rookies in trade, I guess.

Anyway, I don’t mean to be flippant about it, and I am really rooting for Upper Deck to figure out a way to produce viable baseball cards under the newly agreed-to restrictions, which include no use of MLB logos, uniforms, trade dress or club color combinations. I am a little fuzzy on what “trade dress” means, but taken in context with the rest of that particular clause I guess I can figure it out. In addition, Upper Deck forswears using the various and sundry airbrushing techniques on logos (that’s a vast sigh of collector relief you’re hearing), nor will they be allowed to alter or block MLB marks in future products.

Yikes! What avenues are left would seem to be fairly limited. Upper Deck’s curious press release about ostensibly the same ruling concedes that they are going to “see how innovative and create they can become now.” He ain’t kidding.

If Upper Deck can figure out a way to produce and market a nationally distributed mainstream baseball card release under the aforementioned constraints, it will be the most impressive “Save” in major league history.

I’m not a big fan of that particular statistic, but I’m rooting for them nonetheless.