CFLs lose 'home' court bid

September 17, 1994|By Jon Morgan | Jon Morgan,Sun Staff Writer

In another setback for fans desperately wanting to call Baltimore's Canadian Football League team the Colts, a Baltimore-based judge has refused to hear the team's trademark infringement case against the NFL Colts and ordered it sent back to Indianapolis.

"The court is not unsympathetic to the plight of the Baltimore community and the likely perception that, once again, they are about to be deprived of their beloved 'Colts' and further beleaguered by the NFL," U.S. District Judge William M. Nickerson wrote in a decision issued yesterday.

The CFL franchise had sought to mount its name fight in Maryland, where it would save money and, as the party filing suit, it could ask for a jury trial. The NFL argued the case should be heard in Indiana, where it and the Indianapolis Colts had filed a separate suit asking for a trial decided by a judge.

But Nickerson ruled that it would be a waste of federal judicial resources to have the two cases continuing independently and ordered the Maryland action transferred to U.S. District Court Judge Larry J. McKinney for merger with the NFL's case.

Nickerson wrote that he is "certain that Judge McKinney will preside over his non-jury trial with the same impartiality which would have been required of this court had the action proceeded here."

After a short hearing in June, McKinney ordered the CFL team to stop using the name Colts until the dispute could be settled at trial, a decision that was upheld on appeal. Atrial is scheduled for Dec. 5 in Indianapolis.

CFLs team owner James Speros said he would wait until Monday before deciding his next step, which could include continuing with the case in Indiana, trying to get to the Supreme Court or dropping the matter and picking a new name.

"This is a major roadblock, and I'm going to review it over the

weekend and talk with my attorneys. I'm not waving the white flag yet," Speros said.

Ned T. Himmelrich, a trademark attorney with Gordon, Feinblatt, Rothman, Hoffberger and Hollander who is not connected with the case, said Nickerson's ruling is a significant setback for Speros.

"He's always had an uphill fight, and he couldn't get to the top of the steep hill," said Himmelrich, who is the chairman of the Maryland Bar Association Intellectual Property Committee.

"He's had one view of how Indiana may come out and one view of how an appeals court views it, and neither are good," he said. "He's always said he'll take it to the Supreme Court, but I'm not sure there's anything to take to the Supreme Court."

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