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Los Angeles Kings Goalie Jonathan Bernier Escapes Paying for Helmet Artwork

March 28th, 2012 at 9:07 AM
By Matthew Heimlich

Goalie masks in the NHL are a place for that player to express themselves through the images they place on the equipment. The NHL gives them a little artistic license there and most goalies take advantage of it. Playing in Los AngelesKings' backstop Jonathan Bernier’s mask includes several iconic “LA” images, a film reel, palm trees, a lion's head that is similar to the MGM logo, and the Hollywood sign. Apparently, such displays can come at a price.

Several weeks ago, a representative of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, the entity that owns certain rights regarding the Hollywood sign’s image, wanted the Kings to pay for Bernier’s use of their property. The organization, in a letter to the Kings, asked that Bernier have the sign taped over or removed from his helmet, or else he would have to pay them a licensing fee.

Goalies in the NHL must have the art on their masks approved by the league, but no one said anything about a chamber of commerce.

The next game, although he did not play, Bernier taped over the Hollywood sign on his mask

Bernier said they might opt to pay the licensing fee, depending on the amount, according to the LA Kings Insider website. For now, a Kings logo will cover the image. 

Subsequently, ESPN reported that the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce is no longer seeking a licensing fee from the Kings goalie in exchange for wearing an illustration of the iconic hillside sign on his mask.  

Christine Sovich of Global Icons, the agency that represents the Hollywood sign's trust, told Mayorsmanor.com, which broke the original story, that it was all a misunderstanding.

“The Chamber has no objection to the use of it in that nature," Sovich said of Bernier's mask, which he uses to honor the Southern California movie industry. "We apologize for the inconvenience of the original letter. The Chamber has no objection to the use. He can continue to use it that way."

Sovich said she planned to send the Kings a letter giving Bernier permission to use the Hollywood symbol, though a club spokesman said last Thursday afternoon the letter had not been received and Bernier will continue to cover up the sign with strip of tape featuring the Kings logo.

This story caused a bit of a stir, because of the seeming innocence of Bernier having the sign painted on his mask, but companies have been known to use the legal system to compel action on the part of anyone who misappropriates or uses an image without consent.  Using someone's intellectual property as the basis for an artistic rendering of an image can be considered a violation of copyright laws.  Though no action was taken as a result of this "misunderstanding", perhaps goalies, and the artists that paint their masks, will be a little more careful when using pop culture images or brands on their equipment.

Tags: helmet, Kings, Law, Licensing, Los Angeles, mask, NHL, Sports, Sports Law

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