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Keller v. NCAA, Order re Motion to Dismiss

Keller v. NCAA, Order re Motion to Dismiss

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Published by laplanck
Order granting in part and denying in part the NCAA's and Electronic Arts' motions to dismiss a lawsuit brought by former Arizona State University quarterback Sam Keller
Order granting in part and denying in part the NCAA's and Electronic Arts' motions to dismiss a lawsuit brought by former Arizona State University quarterback Sam Keller

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Published by: laplanck on Feb 09, 2010
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11/07/2012

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IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURTFOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIASAMUEL MICHAEL KELLER, on behalf ofhimself and all others similarlysituated,Plaintiff,v.ELECTRONIC ARTS, INC.; NATIONALCOLLEGIATE ATHLETICS ASSOCIATION; andCOLLEGIATE LICENSING COMPANY,Defendants./No. C 09-1967 CWORDER ON DEFENDANTS’MOTIONS TO DISMISS(Docket Nos. 34, 47,48) AND ELECTRONICARTS’ ANTI-SLAPPMOTION TO STRIKE(Docket No. 35)Defendants Electronic Arts, Inc. (EA), the National CollegiateAthletics Association (NCAA) and the Collegiate Licensing Company(CLC) move separately to dismiss Plaintiff Samuel Michael Keller’sclaims against them. EA also moves to strike Plaintiff’s claimsagainst it pursuant to California Civil Code section 425.16 (DocketNo. 35). Plaintiff opposes the motions. As amici curiae, James“Jim” Brown and Herbert Anthony Adderley filed a brief inopposition to EA’s motion to dismiss. The motions were heard onDecember 17, 2009. Having considered all of the papers submittedby the parties, the Court DENIES EA’s Motion to Dismiss (Docket No.34), GRANTS NCAA’s Motion in part and DENIES it in part (Docket No.48), DENIES CLC’s Motion (Docket No. 47) and DENIES EA’s Motion toStrike (Docket No. 35).BACKGROUNDPlaintiff is a former starting quarterback for the Arizona
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2State University and University of Nebraska football teams.EA, a Delaware corporation with a principal place of businessin California, develops interactive entertainment software. Itproduces, among other things, the “NCAA Football” series of videogames. In the games, consumers can simulate football matchesbetween college and university teams. Plaintiff alleges that, tomake the games realistic, EA designs the virtual football playersto resemble real-life college football athletes, including himself.He claims that these virtual players are nearly identical to theirreal-life counterparts: they share the same jersey numbers, havesimilar physical characteristics and come from the same home state.To enhance the accuracy of the player depictions, Plaintiffalleges, EA sends questionnaires to team equipment managers ofcollege football teams. Although EA omits the real-life athletes’names from “NCAA Football,” Plaintiff asserts that consumers mayaccess online services to download team rosters and the athletes’names, and upload them into the games. Plaintiff claims that, inrecent iterations, EA has included features that facilitate theupload of this information.Plaintiff alleges that EA uses his likeness without hisconsent. He asserts that NCAA, an unincorporated association basedin Indiana, and CLC, a Georgia corporation headquartered inAtlanta, facilitated this use. Plaintiff claims that EA, NCAA andCLC met at NCAA’s Indiana headquarters and EA’s Californiaheadquarters to negotiate the agreements that underlie the allegedmisconduct.Plaintiff alleges other misconduct by NCAA and CLC, related toNCAA’s amateurism rules. Plaintiff maintains that NCAA’s approval
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3of EA’s games violates NCAA’s “duty to NCAA athletes to honor itsown rules prohibiting the use of student likenesses . . . .”Compl. ¶ 15. He cites NCAA Bylaw 12.5, which prohibits thecommercial licensing of the “name, picture or likeness” of athletesat NCAA-member institutions. Compl. 13. Plaintiff asserts thatCLC must honor NCAA’s prohibitions on the use of studentlikenesses.Plaintiff charges NCAA with violations of Indiana’s right ofpublicity statute, civil conspiracy and breach of contract. Hecharges CLC with civil conspiracy and unjust enrichment. AgainstEA, he pleads claims for violations of California’s statutory andcommon law rights of publicity, civil conspiracy, violation ofCalifornia’s Unfair Competition Law and unjust enrichment. Heintends to move to certify his case as a class action and seeks,among other things, damages and an injunction prohibiting thefuture use of his and putative class members’ likenesses.LEGAL STANDARDA complaint must contain a “short and plain statement of theclaim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed. R.Civ. P. 8(a). Dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state aclaim is appropriate only when the complaint does not give thedefendant fair notice of a legally cognizable claim and the groundson which it rests. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly
 
, 550 U.S. 544, 555(2007). In considering whether the complaint is sufficient tostate a claim, the court will take all material allegations as trueand construe them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. NLIndus., Inc. v. Kaplan, 792 F.2d 896, 898 (9th Cir. 1986).However, this principle is inapplicable to legal conclusions;
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