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Court rules Jack Nicklaus, involved in lawsuit with Jack Nicklaus Companies, allowed to use his name for course design

December 14, 2022

Sam Greenwood

A New York judge has ruled Jack Nicklaus, who is currently being sued by Jack Nicklaus Companies, is allowed to use his own name for design work.

A lawsuit was filed against the 82-year-old in May, accusing Nicklaus of engaging in "repeated acts in bad faith against the best interests of the Company, including acts to intentionally and maliciously undermine the company." The complaint alleges Nicklaus received a cash payment for promoting an event in Belgium, his involvement developing a video game, and negotiating with Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund over a role with LIV Golf. Nicklaus, who sold his company in 2007, has countered the claims were untrue while acknowledging a personal fallout with the company’s owner. “Our relationship has been a difficult one, at best,” Nicklaus said. “I have little doubt about the outcome, but I don’t intend to make this a public spectacle, if it can be avoided.”

Following a three-day hearing in late November, a New York supreme court judge has allowed Nicklaus to compete against his former company for golf course architecture work and other business, except commercial endorsements. Nicklaus has announced he will be providing his design services through a new firm, named 1-JN.

Nicklaus has designed more than 300 courses across the world, highlighted by Muirfield Village outside Columbus, Ohio, host to Nicklaus’ annual Memorial tournament on the PGA Tour.

“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,” 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, but I have a lot left to give.”

In an email to Golf Digest, a Nicklaus Companies spokesperson 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.

"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."