It’s early in the process but round one of the fight between Jack Nicklaus and Howard Milstein (The Nicklaus Companies) was a victory for the 18-time major champion.
After three days of hearings in late November, a New York Supreme Court judge has allowed Jack to compete for golf course design work against the company that bears his name. Nicklaus has created a new design entity named 1-JN that will provide golf course design services.
Jack, who has designed more than 300 courses around the world released this statement:
“I have been blessed in my long life to have more than one successful career – first playing the game and then designing courses for where this great game is played. It has been more than 50 years since my first course, but I am even more passionate than ever about golf course design. I strongly believe that my ideas and creativity are even better now than they have ever been, and I am inspired to continue producing memorable and sustainable golf experiences that can be enjoyed for years to come.”
Not that which transpired was an injunction. The lawsuit, filed against Jack last May, will be heard in a trial at a future date.
Howard Milstein, who now owns and controls the Nicklaus Companies, made accusations against Jack in the lawsuit.
Nicklaus, in a deposition, countered that claims made against him in the lawsuit were untrue and he acknowledge a personal falling-out with Milstein.
“Our relationship has been a difficult one, at best,” Nicklaus said in the deposition. “I have little doubt about the outcome, but I don’t intend to make this a public spectacle, if it can be avoided.”
Milstein’s people put out this statement following the judge’s ruling on Jack and his freedom to design.
“According to the court’s order, the injunction extends to all ‘officers, directors, agents, shareholders, successors, employees, representatives, heirs, attorneys, and all other persons who are in active concert or participation’ with Mr. Nicklaus or GBI Investors. This would include golf course developers, commercial sponsors, and any other entity who would look to exploit Mr. Nicklaus’ name, image or likeness, or any of the company’s intellectual property—including its ‘JACK NICKLAUS’ trademarks—for commercial gain.
“It is also important to understand that while the court declined to issue a preliminary injunction as to whether Mr. Nicklaus can compete with Nicklaus Companies in designing golf courses, this is only pending a full trial to determine whether or not he has that right. Plus, any such design work would be subject to the court’s limitations on any use of the Nicklaus Companies’ intellectual property — or any use of Mr. Nicklaus’ name, image and likeness — to endorse the golf course. All of these issues have yet to be litigated in full, and after hearing the evidence at trial, we will learn the final decision of the court.
“As we have said all along, our goal was to have the court sort out the legal responsibilities of the parties so that there is no confusion or misunderstanding going forward. The court’s injunction is a step in that direction. We still hope for a collaborative and amicable resolution to these matters. Despite the disparaging statements orchestrated by Mr. Nicklaus’ attorneys against Nicklaus Companies and Jack’s business partner, we continue to have great admiration for Jack and his accomplishments, and will use our rights to his name, image and likeness to keep his legend alive. We will do everything we can to ensure his legacy lives on for generations to come.”
And so round one of the battle is in the legal books.
The main event is still yet to come.