Former San Diego Chargers and Buffalo Bills linebacker Shawne Merriman, whose NFL All Pro career was marred by domestic violence charges, steroid-related suspensions, and injuries, has settled a lawsuit with athletic-apparel maker Nike, which he sued for $18 million in April of 2015.
Merriman argued that after acquiring the nickname "Lights Out" in high school (after which he had a light switch tattooed on his bicep and incorporated into his on-field celebratory antics following a successful play) he began selling T-shirts with the phrase during college and trademarked the term in 2007.
In 2006, however, Merriman signed a promotional contract with Nike, which also marketed, according to Merriman, "56 separate products for both men and women" using the phrase.
The former athlete and current television personality argued that the company was aware of his using the nickname independently at the time he signed.
According to a release from Merriman's camp at the time the suit was filed:
In celebrity endorsement cases such as this one, the term "mark" applies to the celebrity's persona. Merriman has a highly visible persona due to his time in the NFL and his subsequent television jobs and charitable works. He was also a prominent endorser of Nike's products for a number of years. He is probably most recognizable to sports and athletic enthusiasts, which is the market Nike's Lights Out targets, according to the filing. "Under the law of false endorsement, likelihood of customer confusion is the determinative issue," according to the court documents.
Terms of the settlement between the parties were not disclosed, but according to a February 12 announcement from ML Strategies on behalf of Merriman, the dispute ended "with the sportswear giant wishing Merriman’s 'Lights Out' brand 'great success.'"