The USFL is due to return in April. Those who contend to be the owners of the trademarks associated with the original USFL are trying to stop that from happening.
A motion for preliminary injunction has been filed in California federal court. A hearing will be held on March 16.
The goal of the motion is to persuade the court to issue an order preventing Fox from using the USFL name or the names and logos of the eight teams while the case proceeds. It’s an aggressive but not uncommon move. Basically, the plaintiff hopes to persuade the presiding judge that the chances of winning are so strong, and the interests at play so important, that the relief ultimately sought should be granted while the underlying legal questions are addressed.
The USFL is due to return in mid-April. A successful motion wouldn’t directly block the season. However, if prevented from using the USFL name and, more importantly, the names and logos of the eight teams that will play all regular-season games in Birmingham, Fox would have to scramble to come up with new names, logos, and uniforms.
The judge eventually will consider four primary factors: (1) likelihood of success on the merits; (2) whether the injury suffered by the alleged owners of the USFL names and trademarks is “irreparable” (in other words, whether it can’t properly be compensated by a financial award later); (3) the balancing of the equities and hardships of the parties if an order is or isn’t granted; and (4) the public interest.
The paperwork supporting the motion reiterates the allegation that the Fox-owned USFL “is a counterfeit,” and that the use of the league and team names and logos deceives the public into believing that it’s the original USFL, which launched in 1983.
Obviously, Fox sees the value in dusting off the USFL brand and the exact names (including cities) of eight teams from the ’80s-era USFL, even if all teams will be playing in Alabama. The real question is whether the plaintiff truly owns the names and trademarks and, for the purposes of the motion for preliminary injunction, whether the only way to rectify an infringement on those rights is to prevent it now, in lieu of issuing an award of damages to be paid later.
Earlier this week, lawyers representing the new USFL called the lawsuit “completely without merit” and “utterly frivolous,” blaming that the new USFL registered all relevant intellectual property rights in 2011. Fox will now have a chance to prove that in court. The first opportunity comes in 13 days.