The National Football League scored the first victory in its trademark rights battle with Canadian Football League owner Jim Speros when a federal judge in Indiana ruled he had jurisdiction in the case.
In an opinion issued late Friday afternoon, U.S. District Judge Larry J. McKinney said he would hear the case in Indianapolis.
He set a preliminary injunction hearing date of June 23.
The NFL, NFL Properties and the Indianapolis Colts filed a civil suit against Speros on April 29 attempting to block him from using the name CFL Colts for his expansion team, alleging trademark infringement.
The league also is seeking unspecified damages.
"This is the first round," Speros said yesterday. "There may be 12 rounds in this thing."
It was an expensive first round at that. Speros said he has spent $63,000 in legal fees.
"It doesn't surprise me," he said. "This is the NFL's tactful way of emptying the other guy's pocket. They see me as a smaller business, and they're legally trying to drain my pockets."
On Friday, before he learned of the judge's decision, Speros said: "There will be other lawsuits after this. I think what the NFL is trying to do is damage my business."
Speros threw a new wrinkle into the case yesterday.
He said he had "dropped" his application for trademark rights to Baltimore Colts.
"I don't want Baltimore Colts, I want Baltimore CFL Colts," he said. "We will keep the league identification between our names. I've taken this step to show the NFL I have no intention of having any infringement on the name."
Speros' attorneys filed registrations for both names in the U.S. Patent and Trademark office on March 1.
At the same time, they also filed a request for declaratory judgment on the name in Maryland federal court. Speros said that suit would proceed.
"The proper place for this to be heard is in the state of Maryland," he said.
Even with the setback, Speros said he would not retreat.
"I gave the team the name the people chose," he said. "I'm sticking to it. If they had picked Rhinos, I would've gone with Rhinos."