Classic Sports Logos Says Dallas Jury ‘Stings’ American Needle With Trademark Infringement Verdict
Classic Ink, Inc., owner of Classic Sports Logos brand apparel line and rapidly growing trademark licensing firm, secured a major legal victory in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas against American Needle, Inc., and its Red Jacket apparel business on Aug. 6. The jury verdict heralds the end of the latest chapter in a long-running battle over American Needle’s continued infringement of Classic Ink’s trademarks.
After a five-day trial, the seven-member jury returned a unanimous verdict finding American Needle and its Red Jacket apparel business infringed Classic Ink’s trademark rights under the U.S. Trademark laws, including “Tampa Bay Rowdies”® and “Chicago Sting”® marks. The Dallas jury also confirmed the validity of Classic Ink’s trademarks to its “retro” sport team marks and logos. An injunction will prevent American Needle from any further infringing sales, and American Needle has indicated that they would comply with any Court-ordered injunction by stopping future sales of the accused products.
“This is a tremendous validation of our Classic Ink trademark portfolio, and it means a great deal to Classic Ink and its licensing partner, BioWorld Merchandising, Inc.,” said Jeff Henderson, the Vice President of Classic Ink, Inc. This is also a significant development for Classic Ink’s product vendors, including Pony Xpress Printing of Dallas, Texas, also owned by Mr. Henderson and his business partner, Adam Walterscheid.
The Classic Sports Logos licensed products are manufactured and sold under license by BioWorld Merchandising, Inc. The licensed products include shirts and hats bearing Classic Ink’s registered “retro” sports marks. BioWorld Merchandising, Inc. of Carrollton, Texas supplies licensed and private label products to retailers, such a Wal-Mart, JCPenney, Target and Kohl’s department stores, and BioWorld’s licensed products include such names as DC Comics, Sesame Street, and Corona beer.
Classic Ink, Inc. is the owner of U.S. Trademark Registration Nos. 2,755,164 and 3,264,260 to “Tampa Bay Rowdies”® and “Chicago Sting”®. In early July, 2009, American Needle was found to be marketing and selling infringing apparel items having those same infringing marks under its Red Jacket clothing brand. Classic Ink requested that American Needle stop its use of the Classic Ink trademark rights, but American Needle did not respond to those requests. Classic Ink, Inc. then filed a trademark infringement lawsuit in August 2009, and successfully argued at trial that there would have been no need for a trial one year later in August 2010 if American Needle had just complied with the initial cease and desist request back in July 2009.
During the progression of the case and at the jury trial, American Needle took the consistent position that U.S. trademark laws did not apply to its business and its infringing conduct. “Essentially, American Needle took the position that it was ‘above the law,’” said Classic Ink litigation counsel D. Scott Hemingway of Hemingway & Hansen, LLP in Dallas, Texas. On May 24, 2010, American Needle obtained a favorable ruling against the National Football League (NFL) at the U.S. Supreme Court. American Needle successfully argued to the Supreme Court that the NFL was “not above the law.” “American Needle has obviously taken some strategies right out of the NFL’s playbook in how they dealt with Classic Ink’s infringement claims,” Hemingway said, “but no one is above the law, including American Needle -- they should know that from their dealings with the NFL.”
Classic Ink, Inc. is also attempting to stop other infringing uses of their trademark rights, such as the trademark infringement by the newly formed “Tampa Bay Rowdies” soccer team. The “Rowdies” team was formed in Tampa Bay by the Citrus Sports Group and Citrus Ventures. All those parties are named in a parallel trademark infringement Complaint filed by Classic Ink, Inc. in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas. According to the Complaint, without proper authorization, the Tampa Bay Rowdies soccer team adopted the team name “Tampa Bay Rowdies,” and began selling apparel items bearing Classic Ink’s registered trademark in direct violation of its registered rights. “Like American Needle, the “Rowdies” soccer team is also ignoring Classic Ink’s requests to stop all their continued infringement. I guess they just don’t think we are serious about getting them to stop their violations of the law,” said Hemingway. “We are going to shut down these infringers one by one until the market starts to respect our intellectual property rights.”
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