Ravens don't owe artist for logo

Court rules against man who says team used design without credit

October 10, 2003|By Allison Klein and Laurie Willis | Allison Klein and Laurie Willis,SUN STAFF

An amateur artist who has steadfastly maintained that he created the Baltimore Ravens first logo -- and that the team copied it from him without giving him credit -- is not entitled to any money for the design, a federal appeals court ruled this week.

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a federal jury's ruling last year that found the logo did not affect sales because people buy merchandise for the team, not the logo.

Frederick E. Bouchat, 37, a South Baltimore security guard, said he designed a winged Baltimore Ravens logo in 1996. In November 1998, a jury believed Bouchat's story that he faxed that logo to the Ravens front office and that the team used it as its own without giving him credit.

But a separate trial last year decided that Bouchat was not entitled to money for that logo.

"I told my attorney from the beginning I didn't want their money," Bouchat said in a telephone interview yesterday. "I was hoping they'd recognize me as the artist of it because I am."

The original jury did not find that the Ravens stole Bouchat's drawings. Instead, it found that Bouchat's sketches ended up in the team's hands during a hectic time shortly after it moved to Baltimore from Cleveland in 1996 and that logo designers for the NFL mistakenly copied them.

This week's 4th Circuit opinion was a ruling on whether Bouchat should be granted a new trial to decide whether he is entitled to damages.

In a 2-1 opinion, the court decided against Bouchat.

"No rational trier of fact could find that the infringing Flying B logo enabled the defendants to generate more income ... than they would have otherwise done," Judge Robert B. King wrote.

Bouchat's attorney argued that in last year's case, the court too narrowly defined the "pool of income" the jury could use in awarding damages. Items that were excluded, for example, were revenues from sale of game tickets, stadium parking and food.

Bouchat said the ordeal has been emotionally taxing for him.

"I was 30 when I drew it. This Monday coming I will be 38," he said. "Emotionally, it has been stressful to have the ups and downs and go through all of this."

Bouchat's saga began after he drew a logo depicting a winged shield, which he said 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 lawyer Howard Schulman after the Ravens began using the Flying B logo as their primary insignia.

A jury ruled in his favor in his copyright infringement trial in U.S. District Court. The Ravens appealed to the Supreme Court, which in May 2001 declined to hear the case.

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