2010 Upper Deck Baseball: Some Insight into the Settlement
What Actually Happened??
Well, this year, Upper Deck was not granted a license by MLB Properties, however, they were granted a license by the MLB Players Association. In essence, this means they could make cards using the players images, but not the MLB trademarked logos, insignias and such. I am not sure what prompted MLB Properties to only award Topps with a license as Upper Deck does make some nice brands but this is they way they went (I think UD owed them money).
Well, Upper Deck made three baseball products in 2010, two of them are dated 2009 but were clearly available starting in 2010, when Upper Deck no longer had a license for the team uniform colors and logos. Upper Deck also put out 2010 Baseball Series 1 with logos and team colors and MLB Properties tried to stop distribution of those cards. When that failed, they slapped Upper Deck with a major lawsuit.
Initially, it looked as though Upper Deck was willing to fight this one out. You can read all the legal briefs on other sites but their whole argument really didn't make sense and I'm not sure why anyone questioned what lacking a MLB Properties license means. If you have been collecting baseball cards for any amount of time, you've seen cards picturing players where the logo was essentially retouched so as not to appear on the card. Generally, almost every card of this type is considered inferior but this is exactly the situation Upper Deck was in. It could use player images but not MLB logos.
Well, they must have been talked out of fighting since they essentially settled this case out of court and got cremated for their lack of better judgment. They agreed to make no more cards with logos on them, except that MLB allowed UD to continue making and distributing 2010 Upper Deck Series 1, there won't be anything else. They agreed to pay for their previous licensing fees and damages and, well, you get the picture here.
You may ask, "Should I buy this product?"
I, personally, will not be buying much, if any, of this product. The fact that it isn't properly licensed is a big turn off for me because any rookie cards, won't really be rookie cards. The packs are not cheap which, for a base set, REALLY turns me off. This isn't a specialty set so $5 a pack is a bit ridiculous and I have felt this way for a few years now with UD's base product. I know much of the money in the industry is coming in from "Big Kids" but at it's core, baseball card collecting should be affordable for children. There are many brands at many price levels that are expensive, the base brand shouldn't be one of them.
The fact that UD can continue to produce this product might also mean that they flood the market with it which would further kill any collectibility for secondary market purposes. The Topps product, by comparison is easily accessible to children, fully licensed, and is a fun product to open this year (read my other hubs for more information).
Upper Deck can use it's MLB Players Assocuiation license to make cards so we may see something really new and interesting out of UD at some point. They may have to make cards that look like the early 90's Studio sets. Could be interesting - we'll have to wait and see.
Well, I hope this helpes sort out your choices for you. I don't know how Upper Deck will go forward though I'm sure they will. I would skip this porduct and buy more of the Topps product this year - it's just a safer bet.