T-shirts spur stadium lawsuit Camden Yards T-shirts spur a lawsuit.

September 24, 1991|By Kelly Gilbert and Jon Morgan | Kelly Gilbert and Jon Morgan,Evening Sun Staff

State officials say they have yet to reach agreement with the Orioles Inc. on what to call the new downtown stadium -- but they have rolled out the big guns to protect the governor's preference.

The Maryland Stadium Authority yesterday filed a federal lawsuit to block Roy G. Becker, of Arnold, from selling Camden Yards T-shirts.

MSA lawyers claimed, in papers filed in U.S. District Court in Baltimore, that the authority has "prior rights" to the name its has used to refer to the entire downtown sports complex since October 1989.

The suit accuses Becker, of the 400 block of Beach Road, of trademark infringement and unfair competition.

Lawyers for the authority asked Judge J. Frederick Motz, who was assigned the case, for preliminary and permanent injunctions against Becker, and asked for the case to be put on a fast track in the courthouse so it could be resolved quickly.

The lawyers, Jerrold A. Thrope and Jefrey S. Weingrow, also asked the court to order Becker to turn over all profits from his T-shirt sales to the MSA, asked for an award of triple damages to the authority based on those profits and asked the court to order Becker to appear at a deposition hearing with his business records within 10 days.

Weingrow said the authority has tried several times to contact Becker by mail and telephone to discuss the issues raised in the suit, but "he has chosen to ignore us. He has not responded."

Gary R. Maslan, an Essex lawyer who represents Becker, declined to comment on the suit.

Maslan also refused to comment on the status of Becker's applications for a federal trademark in the Camden Yards name and his state applications to register eight trademarks in such names as Oriole Memorial Stadium II, Oriole Park and Babe Ruth Stadium.

Becker applied for the federal trademark July 1, and applied for the state tradenames through the Department of Assessments and Taxation about the same time in an apparent effort to beat the MSA to the punch in using the name.

He's been selling the T-shirts ever since.

If Becker acquires the trademarks, and if the new Orioles' baseball stadium is named any of the names for which he could hold rights, the stadium authority may have to pay him royalties for merchandise that is sold bearing those names.

Weingrow emphasized that the new baseball stadium has not yet been named and that the filing of the lawsuit does not mean that Camden Yards will be the name. The state's lease with the Orioles requires the two sides to agree on a name. Gov. William Donald Schaefer has said he prefers Camden Yards, while Oriole owner Eli Jacobs wants Oriole Park.

The lawsuit said the MSA has been using the Camden Yards trademark to promote "goods and services" at the sports complex since October 1989.

"We were forced to file the suit," Weingrow said. "It's unfortunate, but he [Becker] has forced us to take formal legal action."

Becker has no affiliation with the stadium, the suit says, so his used of the Camden Yards name "causes likelihood of confusion, mistake or deception . . . as to the origin, sponsorship or approval of Becker's goods or commercial activity by the MSA."

Ruth Mae Finch, a local trademark attorney, said the state may win the case simply because it has the resources to pursue a lawsuit.

"It costs a lot to defend against these suits; it's sad," said Finch, who does not represent Becker but has had conversations with his attorney.

She does not think the state has a very good case because it has not itself used the name or filed any application for trademark protection of it.

"If you haven't chosen a name how can you say you own it?" she said. "They want to stop everybody from using everything that they might use."

The authority had more success in stopping Leedmark, a Glen Burnie retailer, from selling stadium T-shirts. The store was selling shirts with a colored picture of the stadium, but stopped when the authority requested it a few months ago, Weingrow said.

H

"They realized the error of their ways," Weingrow said.

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