Culture Kings boss claims lost mail in court battle with Mike Tyson over ‘deceptive’ T-shirts

Boxing legend Mike Tyson is suing two Brisbane-based startup founders.

Boxing legend Mike Tyson is suing two Brisbane-based startup founders. Photo: AAP

A federal court battle has erupted between boxing legend Mike Tyson and an Australian-owned streetwear brand, with the retailer at the centre of the ring claiming he wasn’t told he was being sued.

Tyson, acknowledged as one of the greatest heavyweight fighters of all time, filed a lawsuit against Culture Kings last Friday, allegedly the retailer sold T-shirts emblazoned with his face and nicknames without permission.

The retailer continued to sell the shirts despite being sent multiple cease and desist emails and a letter, NSW Federal Court documents allege.

But Culture Kings CEO Simon Beard told The New Daily the entire case is merely a “miscommunication” and that he never received any correspondence from Tyson’s lawyers.

“It’s just a confusion … I’m sure we’ll solve it,” Mr Beard told TND on Tuesday.

The startup entrepreneur, who co-founded Culture Kings in 2008, said he first learned of the case when TND emailed him on Tuesday morning.

Tyson, meanwhile, is demanding to be paid all profits Culture Kings made from clothes bearing his name and likeness, claiming the retailer misled customers into believing he was affiliated with or sponsored by them.

Mike Tyson

A shirt sold by Culture Kings bearing Tyson’s likeness. Photo: Culture Kings

“References to the applicant [Tyson] … would cause a consumer to associate a product bearing those references, images and words with the applicant, and with the applicant’s international fame, reputation and recognition,” Tyson’s lawyers claimed.

Tyson, who is described as a person of “widespread international fame” by his lawyer, says offending products are branded with terms like “Mike Tyson”, “Iron Mike” and “Kid Dynamite” without his approval.

These products are sold next to other official merchandise and are not labelled “unaffiliated” – behaviour that amounts to misleading and deceptive conduct under consumer law, Tyson, owner of the “Mike Tyson” trademark, alleges.

Mr Beard told TND he’s willing to stop selling the products in question, but believes the clothing has been licensed by his overseas suppliers.

He said products related to Tyson’s fight against Roy Jones Jr were sold last year.

However, they weren’t big sellers because the fight date was wrong.

“We brought that product and it’s already licensed,” Mr Beard claimed.

Mr Beard said he would “have to look up” which other Tyson products he sells, several of which are listed on the Culture Kings website.

Culture Kings has eight stores and was valued at $600 million in a partial sale of the business to a US-based private equity firm earlier this year.

Mr Beard and his co-founder Tah-nee Beard recently debuted on the AFR rich list, with an estimated net worth of $626 million.

Tyson filed proceedings against Culture Kings’ various companies and both co-founders.

It is not the first time Tyson has become embroiled in an intellectual property battle.

In 2011 the artist behind his famous face tattoo sued Warner Bros in the US over its use in The Hangover movie.

Tyson’s lawyer declined to comment.

Topics: Retail
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