Nothing owed in Ravens lawsuit

Logo artist didn't deserve compensation, jurors rule

July 25, 2002|By Laurie Willis | Laurie Willis,SUN STAFF

After a federal jury ruled in 1998 that the Baltimore Ravens had stolen his logo design, Pigtown security guard and amateur artist Frederick E. Bouchat expected compensation -- at one point asking for $10 million.

But yesterday, a second jury, weighing the question of damages, decided that he was not owed a penny.

Bouchat's attorney said he is considering an appeal of the decision, which upheld the position of the Ravens and NFL Properties, the licensing agency of the National Football League, that they owed nothing for using the logo for three years.

Bouchat, 36, who attended the trial in federal court in Baltimore, had no comment.

The Ravens' attorney argued that the logo did not affect sales because people buy merchandise for the team, not the logo.

David Modell, team president and chief operating officer, called the verdict just.

"The Baltimore Ravens, the National Football League and NFL Properties are obviously pleased with the jury's verdict," Modell said. "We think that it's fair, and now we're all pleased that we all get to go back to doing what we do for a living."

When asked whether he was worried about public perception that Bouchat was kicked around by the Ravens, Modell replied: "I hope that our community sees that the Ravens, in many ways, reach out to the community and they recognize that we're disinterested in beating up on anyone other than our opponents in the fall."

Neither side would say how much they spent on litigation. But Modell said after the jury's verdict that "there were serious settlement discussions before the first trial," a claim strongly disputed by Bouchat's attorney, Howard J. Schulman.

"There were no serious settlement discussions before the first trial," Schulman said. "There was, at one point, a take-it-or-leave-it offer with nine of their attorneys sitting in one room trying to offer peanuts and without giving Mr. Bouchat a full and complete letter of recognition that said the Flying B logo design was his.

"During the trial, they offered him a letter acknowledging some preliminary input in the design process but refused to present him with a letter at halftime of one of the games," which would have given Bouchat public recognition, said Schulman.

Bouchat's saga began after he drew a logo -- depicting a winged shield -- that he sent by fax to the Maryland Stadium Authority. Bouchat's attorney said he asked for nothing more in return than signed Ravens memorabilia.

About six months later, Bouchat retained Schulman after Ravens began using the Flying B logo as their primary insignia. His copyright infringement trial in U.S. District Court, before Judge Marvin J. Garbis, ended with a jury ruling in his favor. The Ravens appealed all the way to the Supreme Court, which in May 2001 declined to hear the case.

The trial to determine what if any amount of damages to award Bouchat began last week with Garbis again presiding.

Jurors were shown dozens of items bearing the Flying B logo. including caps, sweat shirts, umbrella holders and footballs. They were told repeatedly by Ravens attorney Bob Raskopf that Bouchat's logo was worthless. They were told by Schulman that Bouchat deserved to be compensated for royalties the Ravens earned off sales of team merchandise.

After eight hours of deliberations over two days, the jury of seven men and five women announced a verdict.

But even then, the trial wasn't over.

Ravens officials had argued early this year that Bouchat wasn't entitled to a jury trial but instead should have his case decided by a judge. Garbis decided to hold a jury trial and a bench trial simultaneously.

Had the Ravens decided to appeal the jury's verdict -- on the grounds that Bouchat should have had a bench trial -- and had the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed, then Garbis' verdict would have become binding.

Garbis had ruled that Bouchat was entitled to 1 percent of revenues from the sale of merchandise bearing the Flying B logo, or roughly $22,000. The judge also ruled that Bouchat was entitled to .02 percent, or $8,000, from revenues derived from the sale of souvenir cups at Ravens home games.

Garbis' ruling is moot because the Ravens and NFL Properties won't appeal the jury verdict.

"I'm surprised," said Schulman, jurors "did not see his design as a factor in the [revenues derived from] merchandise."

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