Speros might abandon nickname fight

August 14, 1994|By Ken Murray JTC | Ken Murray JTC,Sun Staff Writer

Saddled with another legal defeat in his bid to bring the Colts name back to Baltimore, Jim Speros was left with two options yesterday.

The owner of Baltimore's Canadian Football League team can press forward with the trademark rights case against the NFL and the Indianapolis Colts.

Or he can concede defeat and turn the name game over to his fans.

As of last night, Speros was leaning toward concession.

"I don't want to go down a long financial road of unsuccessful court hearings," he said. "I'll make a decision so I don't go too far down the road with no return.

"It doesn't look very good for us."

Speros was pushed to the legal precipice when the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago ruled Friday that his CFL team cannot use the Colts name.

The Chicago decision, rendered by a panel of three judges, upheld a preliminary injunction issued June 27 in Indianapolis by U.S. District Judge Larry J. McKinney. The rejection came 10 days after oral arguments were heard.

The NFL argued that Baltimore's use of the name Colts would confuse fans and affect the sales of merchandise associated with the Indianapolis Colts name.

Speros said he would announce his decision tomorrow after consulting with his legal counsel. His lead attorney, George Pappas of Venable, Baetjer and Howard, was unavailable yesterday. Associate attorney Dave Heubeck declined to comment until he had a chance to read the Chicago decision.

"I'm very disappointed in the outcome," said Speros, who obtained an expansion franchise for Baltimore last February and named it the CFL Colts on March 1.

"People should know I have no intentions of changing the team colors or horse logo . . . . I had to be ready for the worst. I'm prepared to move forward. I've taken this as far as I could take it."

Speros said only if he were able to get the case heard in U.S. District Court in Baltimore would he be willing to extend the fight.

Last month, U.S. District Judge William M. Nickerson denied a motion by Speros' attorneys to hear the case in Baltimore, pending a ruling from Chicago.

"For us to move forward, we'd have to get a judge here to open this up," he said. "The way Judge Nickerson has ruled, that's not likely. If we go back to Indianapolis, it'd be a waste of time and money."

So far, Speros said he has spent $250,000 on the trademark case, including $80,000 on the appeal in Chicago.

If Speros decides not to pursue the case, he said he would involve fans in the selection process for a new name.

It would start with a fan poll at Memorial Stadium and would take, by Speros' estimation, 30 to 45 days. "We could have a name by late October," he said.

Earlier, Speros had said he would prefer to play the entire season without a name if he were unable to use Colts.

A new name most likely would have to come from the horse family, since Speros intends to keep his horse-head logo.

Among the names already suggested to the team are Stallions, Steeds, Thoroughbreds, Ponies, Mustangs and Knights.

Because St. Louis was to use the name Stallions if it got an NFL expansion team last winter, the NFL holds trademark rights to that name.

The legal battle over the nameColts began on March 1 when Speros filed in Baltimore for a declaratory judgment. On April 29, the NFL, NFL Properties and the Indianapolis Colts countered with a civil suit in Indianapolis seeking an injunction and unspecified damages relating to use of the name.

Three days after the team played its first preseason game under the name CFL Colts on June 24 in Shreveport, McKinney issued the preliminary injunction.

I= The team has been known as the Baltimore CFLs since then.

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