Kobe Bryant's estate may be quietly planning to launch its own brand

Key Points
  • Kobe Bryant's estate has filed 13 separate trademark applications since May 2020.
  • The Bryant estate did not renew its deal with Nike when the deal expired last Tuesday.
  • Nike produced almost 20 sneakers with Bryant.

In this article

Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna Bryant attend a basketball game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Atlanta Hawks at Staples Center on November 17, 2019 in Los Angeles, California.
Allen Berezovsky | Getty Images

While Kobe Bryant's estate may have parted ways with Nike, big plans may be in the works for the brand.

According to intellectual property attorney Josh Gerben, an analysis of the legal filings on behalf of the basketball legend's estate show that more than 13 trademarks have been filed since May 2020.

On Monday, Complex Magazine first reported that Nike's contract with the estate ended last Tuesday, and a new agreement had not been signed.

"The filings would suggest Vanessa [Bryant] is building an IP portfolio for a new brand launch," Gerben told CNBC.

Some of the latest filings include trademark applications for the following: Play Gigi's Way, Mamba and Mambacita, Baby Mambas and Mamba League. Gianna, or "Gigi," was the name of Bryant's daughter who died in the tragic Jan. 26, 2020 crash. Her nickname was Mambacita.

A spokesperson for the estate did not respond to CNBC's request for comment.

The filings show that the trademarks are intended to be used for everything from clothing, gym wear, loungewear and footwear. Gerben said these were filed under "intent to use," which usually means an underlying business may be being planned.

This pending trademark was filed by Kobe Bryant LLC in February. It shows a circle with a snake biting the left side of the circle.
Source: US Trademark and Patent Office

It's not just trademarks that the estate is actively working on. The Mamba Sports Academy, where Bryant and eight others were travelling to on the day of the crash, has since been rebranded as the Sports Academy, retiring the word "Mamba."

"It was a mutual agreement, made in accordance with the wishes of his estate," the academy said in a statement when the change happened in May.

"Vanessa — or the estate — is going through and relatively methodically trying to protect the brand around Kobe and his daughter," said Gerben.

The last trademark that Kobe Inc. filed before his death was for "Mambacita" on Dec. 30, 2019, which was just a few weeks before the crash. The most recent filing, "Play Gigi's Way," was dated March 10.

This isn't the first time it has been suggested Kobe may have been looking to start his own company.

On Dec. 29, 2020, Shervin Pishevar, an entrepreneur who co-founded Virgin's Hyperloop, tweeted that he and Bryant had met and discussed potentially starting his own sneaker company, which would have been called Mamba.

Nike produced nearly 20 sneakers with Bryant over the course of the 18-year partnership. However, the language in the contract allows Nike to continue to sell Kobe Bryant shoes that were in the works prior to the deal's termination on April 13, according to a person familiar with the Nike deal. Product launches are being planned over the next couple of months, in addition to a May release pegged to Bryant's induction into the Hall of Fame.

"Kobe Bryant was an important part of Nike's deep connection to consumers. He pushed us and made everyone around him better. Though our contractual relationship has ended, he remains a deeply loved member of the Nike family," the brand said in a statement on Monday.

Bryant first signed with the Swoosh in 2003, after starting his career as an Adidas endorser. In April 2016, he struck a five-year deal that took him through last Tuesday. BMO Capital Markets analysts have pegged the value of Kobe's Nike business at about $250 million, but other analysts say that number may be high.

On Monday, Vanessa Bryant posted on her Instagram Stories, assuring fans that despite leaving Nike, her hope is to allow Kobe's fans get to wear his products for years to come, US Magazine reported.

"I will continue to fight for that," she said in the post. "Kobe's products sell out in seconds. That says everything."

According to a person familiar with the situation, Vanessa Bryant was at odds with Nike over the company limiting the availability of Bryant's products after his death.

BallerShoes DB, a database that tracks sneakers, said that more than 100 players wore Bryant's signature shoes during the 2019-20 season, making it the most popular shoe choice by players. Yet Bryant's sneakers don't seem to hold the same appeal for consumers as those from Michael Jordan or LeBron James.

Matt Powell, a senior industry advisor at NPD Group, said Kobe Bryant shoes are much more important brand in China than in the U.S. in recent years.

"It's not a significant loss for Nike," he said.

Kobe Bryant's investment career could have been better then his basketball career, Michael Rubin says
Kobe Bryant's investment career could have been better then his basketball career, Michael Rubin says