NFL throws legal block at CFL Colts

April 30, 1994|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,Sun Staff Writer

Nearly two months after Jim Speros filed a lawsuit designed to give him legal rights to use the name Baltimore Colts, the NFL struck back with one of its own.

The NFL went to court yesterday in Maryland and Indianapolis to block Mr. Speros from using "Baltimore CFL Colts" for his Canadian Football League expansion team and to seek unspecified damages for trademark infringement.

"They're obviously trading on the name built up by the NFL team," NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said last night. "They're using the goodwill built up by the Colts, what is now the Indianapolis Colts."

On March 1, at the same time Mr. Speros was announcing he would name his new team the CFL Colts, his attorneys asked the U.S. District Court in Maryland for a declaratory judgment against the NFL in a dispute over trademark rights to the name.

After his attorneys discovered that NFL Properties, the league's merchandising arm, had allowed its registration for Baltimore Colts to lapse, Mr. Speros had registered for the name on Jan. 27.

Mr. Aiello said the NFL filed a motion in Baltimore to dismiss Mr. Speros' suit and also filed a civil lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Indianapolis. The civil suit seeks an injunction that would prevent Mr. Speros from using the name and also seeks damages relating to use of the name and merchandising activities. It was filed by the Indianapolis Colts, NFL Properties and the NFL.

Mr. Speros was returning last night from a CFL board of governors meeting in Las Vegas and was unavailable for comment.

The NFL believes it retains trademark rights to the name Colts, even though the team left Baltimore 10 years ago.

Said Mr. Aiello: "We respect the right of the CFL to establish franchises and play games where it chooses, including Baltimore, but our clubs cannot allow someone to misappropriate their trademarks and national identity that has taken many years to build.

"This is not a legal fight that we started. The CFL team initiated the litigation, and NFL Properties was put in the position of having to respond. When the issue first arose, NFL Properties had discussions with Mr. Speros to resolve the differences. In the course of these discussions, the lawsuit was filed by Mr. Speros."

Mr. Aiello said the league filed the motion for dismissal of the suit here because "the court in Baltimore has no jurisdiction over the Indianapolis Colts, which is where our concern is, that our team was sued in a place where it has no presence.

"We filed in Indianapolis, where the team would suffer the most injury," Mr. Aiello said. "And we view it as a national issue. It's not a matter of what's taken place in Baltimore. This involves a CFL team that will be playing throughout the nation, and will be seen on national television."

The CFL Colts will play two exhibition games in late June and open the regular season in July.

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