Filing cites trademark infringement, requests injunction
LOS ANGELES – An organization of owners and executives from the original United States Football League, the most successful spring football league in history, has filed a lawsuit to halt FOX Sports’ launch of a new league that uses the brand identity of the historic league.
VIDEO: Click here for interviews with the USFL’s Larry Csonka, attorneys Nicholas Matich and Alex Brown, as well as a copy of the legal filing.
FOX Sports’ USFL is scheduled to begin play this spring, in large part using the same franchise names, logos and other materials associated with the original USFL. The USFL operated from 1983 to 1985 and launched the careers of players such as Steve Young and Jim Kelly. Since that time, the league’s owners and executives have preserved its legacy through displays at the Pro Football Hall of Fame, licensing agreements for fan apparel, and an authorized documentary and book about the league.
“FOX is trying to reap where it did not sow and profit from confusion among fans of the real USFL, by claiming the legacy of something it didn’t build.,” says Nicholas Matich of the McKool Smith law firm, which represents the Real USFL LLC, the organization of former USFL owners and executives. “The Real USFL is acting to protect the legacy of the players, owners, coaches, and staff of the historic league. Quite simply FOX is claiming to be something that it’s not—the heir of the 1980s league that launched numerous hall-of-fame careers and changed the game of football.”
Larry Csonka, former general manager of the USFL’s Jacksonville Bulls and a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, questions the assertion by FOX Sports that the league and its franchise brands have no value today.
“It boils down to this,” says Mr. Csonka. “If the USFL doesn’t have any value, why did FOX want it?”
Mr. Csonka is acting as the initial manager of the ownership group bringing the lawsuit.
The lawsuit further alleges that FOX Sports and its attorneys have tried to intimidate officially licensed vendors to stop the sale of USFL merchandise, claiming that FOX holds exclusive rights to the names and logos of all USFL teams.
“FOX could have easily started its own league with new teams, but instead chose to take the goodwill and nostalgia of the original league without the permission of the people who actually created it,” says Alex Brown of The Lanier Law Firm, co-counsel for the former USFL owners and executives. “FOX can’t dispute that the ‘Real USFL’ marks are recognizable and valued because they’re using them and purposefully confusing its league with the original. Rather than do the right thing, FOX has chosen to try and bully the prior owners into submission. That’s not going to happen.”
The case is The Real USFL, LLC v. FOX Sports, filed in the United States District Court for the Central District of California.