John O'Brien Apr. 1, 2015, 2:41pm


PITTSBURGH – A nutritional supplement company is suing the agency that represents Pittsburgh Steelers All-Pro wide receiver Antonio Brown and a competing company that it says has stolen him as a spokesman.

Exclusive Supplements, Inc., filed a lawsuit March 24 in Pittsburgh federal court against Glukos Company and Rosenhaus Sports Representation, though it later removed Rosenhaus Sports and substituted it with KCB Sports Marketing.

The amended complaint says Exclusive Supplements signed Brown as a spokesman on Nov. 8 in a contract that contained a non-compete clause.

However, a March 23 press release announced that Glukos Company signed Brown to promote its product.

Glukos and KCB conspired to interfere with Brown’s contract with Exclusive Supplements, the complaint says.

“In furtherance of that purpose, the defendants intentionally misled or coerced Brown into entering into an agreement with Defendants that would clearly violate the noncompetition provision in his endorsement agreement with ESI,” the complaint says.

“Defendants induced Brown to breach the noncompetition provision in his endorsement agreement with ESI for the specific purpose of injuring ESI’s brand and damaging its reputation.”

In 2014, Brown led the NFL in receptions with 129 and receiving yards with 1,698 and was tied for second in touchdown catches with 13.

Exclusive Supplements also asked for a temporary restraining order or preliminary injunction to prevent Brown’s likeness being used on Glukos products.

U.S. District Judge Cathy Bisson denied the motion on March 25.

“Here, Plaintiff indicates that its ‘officers have filed affidavits in support of the allegations in this emergency motion,’” she wrote.

“However, contrary to that assertion, Plaintiff has submitted no such affidavits to the court, and the motion for TRO will be denied…”

In a footnote, Bisson wrote that it is noteworthy that the complaint does not indicate whether Brown has initiated the termination provisions of his contract with Exclusive Supplements.

Bisson added that the contract can be terminated at will, and the non-compete language would not survive the termination.

“(T)he court is puzzled by how Mr. Brown could possibly have any continuing obligation not to compete following the termination of his contract,” she wrote.

“Indeed, even if the court were to read the non-compete language as extending indefinitely beyond the termination of the contract – a reading proffered by Plaintiff, but not consistent with the plain language of the contract – non-compete agreements that are not reasonably limited by time and territory have long been held to be unenforceable in Pennsylvania.”

From the Pennsylvania Record: Reach editor John O’Brien at jobrienwv@gmail.com.

 

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