He can keep T-shirt profits

VENDOR WINS ONE

February 06, 1993|By Jon Morgan | Jon Morgan,Staff Writer

Chiding the Maryland Stadium Authority for overkill, a federal judge yesterday refused to award it the profits earned by a T-shirt salesman who made unlicensed Camden Yards clothing.

"This is a small businessman who saw an opportunity. . . . It's simply showing a little American get up and go," said U.S. District Judge J. Frederick Motz.

Roy Becker, the Arnold resident who applied for the trademark on Camden Yards before the Stadium Authority had picked it as the name for the downtown ballpark, cannot resume selling the shirts and other clothes. But neither will up to $40,000 in profits he earned be turned over to the state, according to Judge Motz's rulings.

Attorneys for both sides came to court armed with stacks of legal briefs and prepared for a long hearing. But Judge Motz cut off the proceedings 15 minutes after they began with a surprise announcement that he wasn't going to go along with the state's request.

"I don't believe in wasting a lot of time and money," Judge Motz explained, and, turning to attorneys for the Stadium Authority, asked "Aren't you trying to pile it on?

"I'm strongly inclined to say enough is enough. You've got the injunction to protect you. . . . And Mr. Becker better understand that I won't fool around," Judge Motz said.

The judge granted a Stadium Authority request in November and issued an order -- called a permanent injunction -- prohibiting Mr. Becker from using "Camden Yards" on any clothing he makes or sells. Judge Motz ruled that Mr. Becker was illegally profiting from a name that rightfully belonged to the state, which built and maintains the stadium. The law was not so clear that what Mr. Becker did, though wrong, deserved punitive measures, Judge Motz said.

"I don't see how Mr. Becker hurt you and if anything he helped you," said Judge Motz, referring to the publicity the case has generated.

Jerrold A. Thrope, an attorney representing the authority, told the judge they had tried unsuccessfully to reach a settlement with Becker that would protect the state's rights and end the matter.

"The Maryland Stadium Authority would rather not have had this litigation," said Mr. Thrope, with Gordon, Feinblatt, Rothman, Hoffberger & Hollander.

Before the ruling, Mr. Thrope argued that the state should get Mr. Becker's profits because they were illegally acquired and because it would deter future violators. He estimated Mr. Becker's revenues at $80,000 and costs at $40,000.

Afterward, Mr. Thrope said those figures were rough estimates because Mr. Becker did not keep thorough records. (Mr. Becker said he does not know how much he made.) The Stadium Authority would have to decide whether to appeal Judge Motz's ruling, Mr. Thrope said.

"If Mr. Becker does not appeal the injunction then it is very unlikely that we would appeal this," Mr. Thrope said.

Mr. Becker's attorney, Ruth Mae Finch, however, said they intend to continue pursuing the rights to the name by appealing Judge Motz's original ruling and injunction. She said any other ruling by the judge yesterday would have been "absurd.

"We think it's absurd for any court to try to extract blood from my client when the Stadium Authority didn't have any rights," she said.

Mr. Becker's application to the U.S. Patent and Trademark office, and an opposition and separate application filed by the Stadium Authority, is pending.

Contacted after the hearing, Stadium Authority Chairman Herbert J. Belgrad defended the decision to seek money from Mr. Becker.

"When you are forced to incur a lot of expenses in litigation to protect your rights, I think it's reasonable to pursue damages," he said.

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