CASE SUMMARY: Abdul-Jabbar v. General Motors Corp. Skip over navigation
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Copyright (c) 1997 DePaul University
Journal of Art and Entertainment Law

CASE SUMMARY: Abdul-Jabbar v. General Motors Corp.

85 F.3d 407 (9th Cir. 1996)

Spring, 1997

7 DePaul-LCA J. Art & Ent. L. 396


T. Sean Hall



Kareem Abdul-Jabbar ("Abdul-Jabbar") brought suit against General Motors Corporation and its advertising agency, Leo Burnett Co., (collectively "GMC"), alleging violations of the Lanham Act 1 and California's statutory and common law right of publicity. 2 The United States District Court for the Central District of California found that Abdul-Jabbar had "abandoned the name Lew Alcindor, and ... abandoned the right to protect that name, and the right to assert any other rights that flow from his having had that name at one time in the past." 3 As a result, the court granted summary judgment in favor of GMC on both the Lanham Act and the state law causes of action. 4 The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed and remanded. The reviewing court held "that the question of whether Abdul-Jabbar's Lanham Act claim should succeed is a question for the jury ... because it could reasonably conclude that ... certain factors weigh in plaintiff's favor." 5 Similarly, with respect to the state law claims, the appellate court held that "whether or not Lew Alcindor 'equals' Kareem Abdul-Jabbar ... is a question for the jury." 6


Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was named Ferdinand Lewis "Lew" Alcindor when he was born and played basketball under that name throughout his college career and into his early years in the National Basketball Association ("NBA"). 7 Abdul-Jabbar converted to Islam during college and used the name "Kareem Abdul-Jabbar" among friends. It was not until several years ...
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