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Jack Nicklaus allowed to use name for course design, as judge weighs in ahead of full trial


After a three-day hearing in late November, a New York Supreme Court judge declined to issue an injunction in a case involving Jack Nicklaus Companies against Jack Nicklaus, which means the 18-time major winner could compete against Nicklaus Companies for golf course architecture work and other business, except commercial endorsements.

The case will be resolved at a full trial set for a later date that hasn’t yet been announced (click here for judge’s order).

Nicklaus’ new venture is called 1-JN, LLC, a business he co-owns with his wife, Barbara.

In May, Jack Nicklaus Companies filed a complaint with the Supreme Court of the State of New York against the 82-year-old, alleging a breach of contract with Nicklaus Companies, which he sold in 2007, as well as tortious interference and breach of fiduciary duty.

According to the complaint, Nicklaus was paid $145 million in 2007 to provide exclusive services and property to his company, which over time he failed to live up to or worked against the company directly. The complaint alleges Nicklaus received a cash payment for promoting the DP World Tour’s Soudal Open in Belgium, his involvement developing a video game, and negotiating with Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund over a role with LIV Golf. Nicklaus reportedly declined $100 million to become LIV’s CEO.

In response to the judge’s declination of an injunction, Nicklaus said in a statement:

“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.”

“You might say I have nothing to prove,” Nicklaus added, “but I have a lot left to give.”

Nicklaus Companies also issued the following statement:

“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. Nickalus’ 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.”

(Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include Nicklaus Companies’ statement and further clarify the status of the case.)