Man can't use 'Camden Yards' on T-shirts, judge rules

STADIUM WINS NAME GAME

November 17, 1992|By Jon Morgan | Jon Morgan,Staff Writer

Roy Becker, a self-styled David battling the Goliath Maryland Stadium Authority over the rights to the name Camden Yards, has lost his case.

In a decision laced with affectionate Oriole references, U.S. District Judge J. Frederick Motz ruled last week that the state owns the name and prohibited Mr. Becker from selling his Camden Yards T-shirts or other merchandise.

"The federal court has sustained our view from the outset: The name should not be exploited for commercial purposes. It belongs to the Stadium Authority," says Herbert J. Belgrad, Stadium Authority chairman.

Mr. Becker, however, promised to appeal and says he would continue selling his shirts despite the judge's order.

Mr. Becker began selling Camden Yards clothing in the summer of 1991, before the opening of the downtown stadium and while its name was still being debated by the team owner and Gov. William Donald Schaefer.

He filed a trademark application for the name on July 1, 1991, several months before the name Oriole Park at Camden Yards was selected and the state filed its own trademark application.

The state sued him for trademark infringement, asserting that the Stadium Authority used the name first and that Mr. Becker was wrongfully trying to profit from the new state-owned stadium. Judge Motz agreed.

"For any reasonable person to have made any association other than baseball with the Camden Yards name would have been as unlikely as Boog Powell hitting an inside-the-park home run, Paul Blair playing too deep, Brooks Robinson dropping a pop-up, Frank Robinson not running out a ground ball, Jim Palmer giving up a grand slam home run, Don Stanhouse pitching an easy 1-2-3 inning, or Cal Ripken Jr. missing a game because of a cold," the judge wrote.

Judge Motz, in an opinion signed Thursday and received by the litigants yesterday, wrote that even though the Stadium Authority had not sold goods or services under the Camden Yards name until after Mr. Becker had, it used the name in various studies, newsletters and marketing brochures as far back as 1987.

The judge declared the state the winner before a trial was held, a process called "summary judgment" in which judges determine from pre-trial filings that the evidence clearly supports one side. A trial to determine damages, the amount of money lost to the Stadium Authority by Mr. Becker's business, will be held later.

"I'm going to continue. With all due respect to Judge Motz, he's got to understand. That's the way I put bread and butter on my table," Mr. Becker says. "I'm willing to go to jail for this."

A part-time construction worker, tugboat crewman, process server and clothing retailer, Mr. Becker, of Arnold, says he has invested a lot of money in his Camden Yards business and has played by the rules.

"I did everything legal and I shook up a couple of big guys and now I get smacked down," he says.

His trademark application is still pending before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in Washington, as is an opposition and separate application filed by the authority.

Judge Motz's ruling probably will tip that case in favor of the state, says Bingham Leverich, a trademark attorney from the Covington & Burling firm hired by the stadium authority.

"It should be dispositive of the trademark proceedings," Mr. Leverich says.

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