Shawne Merriman once knocked four opposing players unconscious during a single high school football game.
Can Nike make such a claim? Doubt it.
Yet, the company is using "Lights Out" -- the nickname Merriman says he earned after that game -- as the name of one of its athletic apparel lines.
That strikes a nerve with the former NFL star, who used the nickname throughout his career and performed a celebratory dance of the same name after sacks.
And he's doing something about it. On Monday a lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court on behalf of Merriman's Lights Out Holdings LLC against Nike for trademark infringement and unfair competition. It seeks an injunction as well as damages to be determined at trial.
According to the suit, Merriman acquired the federal trademark rights for Lights Out in 2007. The suit also claims that Merriman once negotiated with Nike about starting a line bearing his nickname in 2006 or 2007, but nothing came to fruition.
"I earned my 'Lights Out' nickname in high school when I knocked out four opposing players in one football game," Merriman said in a statement. "I made things official by securing the federal rights to my LIGHTS OUT trademark and have been using it ever since. I am suing Nike as a last resort, not only to protect my brand, but to protect other athletes who are trying to develop a brand after their professional career, like myself."
A Nike spokesman told the Associated Press that the company doesn't comment on litigation.