Playing the stadium name claim game Entrepreneurs register all kinds of names for stadium.

August 30, 1991|By Jon Morgan | Jon Morgan,Evening Sun Staff

Officials considering various names for Baltimore's ne baseball stadium are in for a surprise: just about every name ever suggested for the downtown structure has been claimed, mostly by entrepreneurs who have beat a path to trademark and trade-name offices in recent months.

State trade names have already been assigned for Orioles Park, Babe Ruth Stadium, William Donald Schaefer Stadium and just about every variation of Camden Yards imaginable, according to records.

None of this necessarily means the new stadium can not carry these names. And state officials say it represents a nuisance at ++ best. But legal experts say lawsuits may be required to settle the complicated issues involved, which ultimately could affect millions of dollars in concession sales.

The matter first came to light two weeks ago when it was discovered that Roy G. Becker, a 28-year-old T-shirt vendor from Arnold, had applied for federal trademark rights for "Camden Yards," a leading contender for the stadium name.

Becker was selling Camden Yards shirts outside Memorial Stadium, and told reporters that he would be willing to "cooperate" if officials wanted to use the name on the stadium. A similar situation involving the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas, resulted in a negotiated settlement between city officials and the husband-and-wife team that registered the name first.

A check with the Maryland Department of Assessments & Taxation reveals Becker has registered the trade names Camden Yard Sports Stadium, Camden Yards Baseball Stadium, Camden Yards Memorial Stadium II, Camden Yards News Press, Camden Yards Paper Products, Camden Yards Park, Camden Yards Property and Camden Yards Stadium.

He has also registered Oriole Memorial Stadium II, Oriole Park and Babe Ruth Stadium. The state trade name filings, conducted over the past two months, cost $12 each.

Other names also have been registered. William Donald Schaefer Stadium was registered in July by Christian Riblet Hurley of Towson. And the Baltimore Orioles Inc. was registered to William T.S. Bricker in 1989.

Such registrations with the state do not carry the the same weight as winning federal trademark rights, which can take up to a year and carry a $175 filing fee.

The state merely registers all trade names that do not conflict with prior registrations.

Some of the names would presumably run up against existing federally registered trademarks if they were to be used. Ancestors of Babe Ruth, for example, hold some of the rights to his name. And major league baseball holds rights to the Orioles.

Jefrey S. Weingrow, a trademark attorney hired by the Maryland Stadium Authority, said the state registrations will have little impact.

"It doesn't give you a lot of rights. It gets you into state court, that's about it," said Weingrow, with Gordon, Feinblatt, Rothman, Hoffberger & Hollander in Baltimore.

"It gets you nothing."

But Joyce Thompson, an attorney with the Department of Assessments & Taxation, said such registrations prevent some uses of a registered name for five years.

"If you are selling T-shirts in the name of a business entity that has been registered, it might create a problem. You are appropriating somebody's name on your products," Thompson said.

Ultimately, she said, "it is a judicial decision" who has what rights.

Ruth Mae Finch, a local trademark lawyer, said a number of issues would be considered, including the possibility of consumers confusing different trademarks, whether or not the registrants have actually used the names in business, and what federal rights are already protected.

The Stadium Authority sent a letter last week to Becker threatening him with a lawsuit if he doesn't stop selling Camden Yards T-shirts. The letter contends that the state owns the rights to Camden Yards even without registering it because it "has come to be closely identified with the new stadium complex." Becker was told to respond by next week. His attorney, Gary Maslan, said he believes Becker has the right to use the name.

"I think they will have to deal with us if they choose to market a line of clothing with Camden Yards on it," he said.

The Stadium Authority has not registered any name for the stadium, pending the outcome of talks between the state and Orioles management on naming the ballpark, Weingrow said.

As for the other names, Bricker, an attorney in Towson, said he registered the Baltimore Orioles to prevent anyone from moving the team and keeping the name. He tried the same thing with the Indianapolis Colts, but said Indiana officials there told him he was too late -- Baltimore's football team had already registered in its new town.

He has never exerted any right over the name, but said he believes he could if he wanted to.

William Donald Schaefer Stadium was registered by Hurley on July 2 as a "diversified corporation in consulting, venture capital, retailing, professional management and athletic/entertainment promotions." Hurley was unavailable yesterday.

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