NFL vows to saddle CFL with suit over Colts name

February 12, 1994|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,Sun Staff Writer

If Jim Speros wants to name his Canadian Football League team the Colts, he may have to fight for it.

The NFL yesterday faxed a letter to CFL commissioner Larry Smith asking him to discontinue plans to use the name Baltimore Colts.

The letter, sent by John Flood, president of NFL Properties, said the league will pursue legal action if the CFL does not comply with the request.

Speros, a Virginia businessman who expects to get a lease next week to play in Memorial Stadium for the 1994 season, said he spent three hours on the phone discussing the issue with his attorney, Bob Bodansky, of the Washington law firm Feldman, Bodansky and Rubin.

While he is reluctant to do so, Speros said it is possible the name might have to be revised.

"We have not changed our position on [wanting to use] the Colts lTC name," Speros said. "But we may have to use the Silver Colts or Fighting Colts.

"With this new development, we have to take a look at it. I do not want to be bullied or pushed around. I do not want to make a poor business decision, either."

Bodansky said he found that the NFL had let the trademark license on Baltimore Colts expire in December 1992, and that Speros recently filed an application to use the name. Approval of that application might not come for as much as a year, however, leaving Speros in legal limbo.

"For the moment, the letter has been received and we're reviewing the concerns of the NFL," Bodansky said. "We'll review the legal posture of the matter and make a decision in the next couple of days."

Speros said there is some pressure from the CFL to choose a different name. "The CFL doesn't want to be on bad terms with the NFL," he said. "They want me to sign a waiver so I'll take the financial risk [in event of a lawsuit]."

Bodansky said the standard of trademark law that applies is whether the names of Indianapolis' NFL team and Baltimore's CFL team are "confusingly similar."

"Is use of the Baltimore Colts with this CFL team so confusing as to mislead the public and get turned around as to whether the Indianapolis Colts are in the NFL or the Baltimore Colts are in the CFL?" he said.

The legal call is a close one, Bodansky said.

Close enough that should Speros be awarded a CFL expansion team next week, he said he won't have any merchandise with the name Colts on it. Any T-shirts or hats would carry the CFL emblem with a Baltimore designation.

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