USFL Kicks Off Today, But Old Owners Successfully Defend Their Trademark Position

USFL Kicks Off Today, But Old Owners Successfully Defend Their Trademark Position article feature image

Via Christian Petersen/Getty Images. Pictured: USFL coach Kevin Sumlin

This Saturday night, a league with the old USFL name, the old USFL team names and the old USFL logos will kick off.

There’s just one problem.

The USFL name, team names and logos that they are using don’t actually belong to them.

That’s according to a federal judge in California who was asked by members of the old USFL guard (as plaintiffs they are called the Real USFL) to stop the league, with Fox and NBC as investors, from starting.

In the ruling issued late Thursday, the judge didn’t want to stop the league from kicking off but did say that the old USFL had a case to deny the new USFL of filing for trademarks that replicate the old, now dead, trademarks of the old USFL because there was likelihood of confusion between the old and the new.

Not only is the league using the exact same league names as the old USFL, but it has expressly marketed that it is bringing the old USFL back, despite not technically having any connections to the past.

The old USFL owners didn’t maintain their trademarks but did do some licensing of the marks for apparel. The current USFL owners filed for trademarks, but most of them are still currently pending.

“When the teams take the field, they will be using names, jerseys and helmets that have now been established as marks owned by the old ownership group,” said Nick Matich, who represents the plaintiffs.

U.S. District Judge John F. Walter said that the old USFL owners are entitled to compensation, but because the plaintiffs filed their case so late in the game, he couldn’t in good conscience hold up the league, partly because “the defendants have undoubtedly generated more goodwill for the USFL since announcing the launch of the New League eight months ago than Plaintiff’s members have accomplished in the past forty years.”

The old USFL lasted for three seasons from 1983-1985. They won their antitrust case against the NFL, but only won $1. The league, known for taking talent like Herschel Walker, Doug Flutie, Jim Kelly and Steve Young from the NFL, then shuttered.

The opening game tonight will be broadcast on FOX and NBC, the first scheduled simulcast since Super Bowl I in 1967.
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