Supreme Court won't review case against Ravens logo

May 22, 2001|By Gail Gibson | Gail Gibson,SUN STAFF

The Supreme Court declined yesterday to hear a Maryland case in which a state security guard claimed that the Baltimore Ravens copied its original logo from his sketches, clearing the way for the amateur artist to pursue millions of dollars in damages.

The Ravens had sought a review of the case brought by Frederick E. Bouchat, a Pigtown man who convinced a federal jury in 1998 that the Raven's former bird-and-shield logo replicated a drawing he had made months before the team's name and logo were announced.

The court's decision not to hear the team's appeal allows Bouchat, who originally sought $10 million in his lawsuit, to continue pursuing damages. A trial is scheduled for next May in U.S. District Court in Baltimore to determine how much money he should receive.

'We're excited and enthused by this Supreme Court ruling, and we're looking forward to the next stage," said Howard J. Schulman, a Baltimore attorney representing Bouchat.

In a statement, Ravens' officials said they were "disappointed, but not surprised," by the court's decision. A three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond last year up-held the original jury verdict. The appellate court also rejected a request for a rehearing before the full court.

"The Ravens had no knowledge of Mr. Bouchat or his artwork prior to our approval of the NFL Properties' design," Kevin Byrne, the team's vice president for public relations, said in the statement. "As soon as our use of the original logo was challenged, we immediately took the necessary steps to adopt a new logo."

Bouchat, a security guard at a state office building who draws in his spare time, says he faxed his logo design to the Maryland Stadium Authority in April 1996. well before the team unveiled a strikingly similar logo.

In rejecting the team's appeal last year, the 4th Circuit judges noted that expert testimony at trial determined that "the designs are so similar that they could not have been created independently from one another."

Ravens officials said the logo was created by a New-York based design team that never saw Bouchat's sketches. Following the jury verdict, the team adopted a new logo - this one featuring a profile of a raven's head - that was picked by fans in a 1999 poll.

To prepare for the damages trial, Schulman said he is seeking a court order forcing the Ravens and NFL Properties Inc., the league's marketing arm, to turn over financial books and records indicating how much the original logo was worth to the team.

Bouchat, meanwhile, "continues to be a Ravens football fan," Schulman said. "He certainly was thrilled by [this year's] Super Bowl victory."

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