June 25, 2009

Topps Agreement Forces Upper Deck To Discontinue Production of Key Sports Card Sets

I saw the link to this article on Twitter and needed to post it for everyone who doesn't follow Blow Out cards. This article was originally seen on the Cardboard Connection, however I read it from a link on Twitter at Blow Out cards message boards.


Earlier this year Topps sued rival sports card manufacturer Upper Deck on the basis that numerous 2009 Upper Deck Sports Card Products copied the designs of various 1970's Topps Baseball Card Sets. Upper Deck scored an early legal victory when a New York judge ruled in their favor by denying Topps' request for a temporary
restraining order that would have prevented Upper Deck from releasing 2009 Upper Deck Series 2 Baseball and 2009 O-Pee-Chee Baseball.

The next chapter in the legal battle between Topps and Upper Deck was revealed late last week when the two bitter rivals reached an out of court agreement as they await their day in court. According to court documents filed on June 18th, the agreement will allow Upper Deck to continue to sell its existing stock of 2009 Series One and Two Baseball, 2009 O-Pee-Chee Baseball and 2008-09 O-Pee-Chee Hockey cards until July 16. Upper Deck will then have to cease production, distribution, and promotion of the sets named in the lawsuit. A hearing on whether Upper Deck will eventually have to recall the aforementioned products will be delayed until the case goes to trial. The trial date has yet to be scheduled.

The similarities between the Upper Deck cards in question and 1975 Topps Baseball are numerous. Both baseball card designs use a 2-color outer border, a thin white border that surrounds the players' photos, bubble-lettered team names complete with shadows near the tops of the cards, player names written in a single color located at the bottom of the card, and sport a baseball in the bottom corner.

Upper Deck says in its defense that the Topps baseball card designs that it supposedly copied are "common and functional" and therefore not protected as a matter of law. In taking this stand, Upper Deck appears to taking the position that trading card designs should not be protected by copyright laws. Should they prevail over Topps, this could ultimately diminish the level of protection available to any and all trading cards - including their own brands.

Regardless of the similarities that exist between the sets, Topps could easily find itself in a no win situation. Should Topps come out victorious, it would significantly strengthen the copyright protections available to the trading card industry as a whole. However, in doing so they would also drive up the demand for 2009 Series One and Two Baseball, 2009 O-Pee-Chee Baseball and 2008-09 O-Pee-Chee Hockey. The hobby's love of short printed cards could easily catapult these products into a previously unattainable degree of success.

-The Cardboard Connection


This is not good news for us, since as you know we both loved the OPC set. Sigh.


  1. let's be real here. Production on the sets in question stopped a long time ago. UD has until mid July to sell off any remaining inventory, so it will all be out to dealers sooner than later. That SHOULD translate into lower prices as dealers will want to dump it to make room for the next wave.
    All in all, for collectors, this is a "who cares" situation, as far as what we already know and see.
    But we won't see any retro inserts in future sets, such as the rumoured 1977 OPC in '09 UD baseball series 2.
    I think this is actually good for the hobby, as much as I love those OPC inserts, as the last thing we need is a free for all as any company could rip off a design from somebody else. Hopefully this will force everyone to actually come up with something NEW for a change.

    My two cents....

  2. So what's the bottom line? Do they have to pull existing product from the shelf?

  3. no. the judgement forces UD to cease manufacture.
    the inventory in play, and still at UD is NOT afeected.

  4. The real issue are the inserts, which designs are direct copies of Topps issues previously sub-licensed for the Canadian market to O-Pee-Chee. It's another case of a legitimate complaint overreaching beyond a justifiable remedy.

    I am rarely on UD's side when it comes to the legal environment, when it comes to the base design for UD 2009 OPC, I think that it is much of what the hobby needs. It is retro-inspired, but not just another virtual duplicate of designs past.

    Topps just looks dumb for letting usage rights owned formerly owned by OPC escape their clutches.

  5. Whatever the case, I loved this set and had already bought 2 boxes. I just bought another 5. Thank God I don't have kids because I would be feeding them oatmeal because of this. lol.

  6. LOL @ Chris. I bought one myself. My first hobby box of the year. Any interest in trading doubles or Pujols/Jeter we are open to it here.

  7. Absolutely. I'm a Yankee fan but any double Jeter I get I will trade (the wife loves the guy and would kick me in a painful place if I traded Jeters) and I am open to trading my Pujols'. I am partial to Josh Hamilton and Evan Longoria