Federal judge declines to block USFL from using names and logos, with a caveat

USA TODAY Sports

The hearing wasn’t supposed to happen until April 18. It happened yesterday. So did the ruling.

The new USFL can proceed with names and logos that potentially infringe on rights held by the original USFL, which debuted in 1983.

As explained by Ben Fischer of Sports Business Journal, Judge John Walter concluded that the original USFL was not entitled to what’s known as a preliminary injunction in the trademark infringement case brought against Fox, the owner of the new USFL. A preliminary injunction would have prevented Fox from using the USFL names and logos until the underlying case is resolved.

It’s not easy to get a preliminary injunction. It requires more than a showing that the plaintiff will likely win the case. The plaintiff has to also show, among other things, that it will suffer “irreparable harm” if the preliminary injunction isn’t granted. This means, in most cases, that the injury suffered by the ongoing violation can’t later by rectified with an award of monetary damages as compensation.

In this case, what’s the harm to the original USFL? It hasn’t tried to play games in decades. It’s not in the process of reconstituting. The judge found that no “irreparable harm” would come from allowing Fox to use the names and logos while the case proceeds.

A request for a preliminary injunction also requires the judge to balance the hardships to the plaintiff if an injunction isn’t granted and to the defendant is an injunction is issued. Judge Walter pointed out that Fox has made a major investment in the new USFL. It also didn’t help that the USFL waited to sue when it was obvious that Fox planned to use the names of the league and eight of its former teams.

The news wasn’t all bad for the old USFL, however. The judge noted that the owners of the original USFL names and logos would likely prevail on their trademark infringement claim. Whether that means Fox will have to abandon the names or pay the original USFL for the privilege of using them remains to be seen.

“We are very pleased at the court’s ruling on the merits that Fox ‘deliberately decided to launch their new league using the same names and teams as the old league in an apparent attempt to capitalize on the nostalgia for the old league,'” Nicholas T. Matich, a lawyer representing the plaintiff in the case, told Fischer. “Although the court is letting Fox move ahead with its league for now, Fox is doing so on a foundation it didn’t build.  The court’s ruling shows that the rights of the people that built the original league will ultimately be vindicated.”

Putting it another way, the final judgment in this case for the original USFL very likely will exceed three dollars.

15 responses to “Federal judge declines to block USFL from using names and logos, with a caveat

  1. The easiest answer:

    Fox is using the old names and logos because it still has brandname recognization and goodwill. Otherwise they wouldn’t bother using it. Therefore it’s worth a lot because they don’t have to spend millions promoting all whole new names.

    Pay the old owners half the difference or something. Done.

  2. I remember how popular the old USFL was it had MLB very scared as it was almost on par with it in 3 short years .
    The USFL owners lead by Trump killed a very popular promising league by foolishly pushing the panic button to early if they had waited 4-5 more years the NFL would have had to let them in .

  3. The original USFL lasted three seasons.

    I’d say that’s a good line for the over/under on this one.

  4. The Nostalgia is real. Jim Mora and the Philly Stars back to back champs was awesome. Tell people what’s up Philly Star fans

  5. The USFL should be honored that someone revived the team names from a dumpster fire of a league.

  6. Unprofessional Development says:
    April 15, 2022 at 11:18 am
    The Nostalgia is real. Jim Mora and the Philly Stars back to back champs was awesome. Tell people what’s up Philly Star fans

    75Rate This

    LOL your memory is fuzzy- They had already moved to Baltimore to win that second championship. That said, the Philadelphia Stars will be playing this season in Birmingham AL. I’m sure there will be non-stop roadtrips to the games from the “home” crowd. (eyeroll)

  7. Legacy USFL laid down their marker. If Fox opts to sustain the league then old USFL gets paid. If not, then there was no value in the old logos. This looks like Fox is expecting at most a short-term gain.

  8. nite2al says:
    April 15, 2022 at 11:24 am

    The USFL should be honored that someone revived the team names from a dumpster fire of a league.

    *********

    Incorrect. The league was NOT a dumpster fire. In fact, it had great success. And if Trump wouldn’t have coerced the other owners to try to play in the fall and compete with the NFL, it would’ve continued to thrive.

    The only reason Trump got involved with the USFL was to implement his grand plan of the NFL absorbing the USFL, thus, making him an owner in the NFL. And that was his SOLE purpose. Not the success fo the USFL itself.

  9. Money fixes everything in a case like this, and if Fox has to pay, they will pay and move on. They won’t have to change anything. The thought of there being ‘USFL nostalgia’ is laughable. Nobody remembers the team names and logos. Fox should have came up with their own league name, teams, etc. because frankly most of them are bad anyway. I could come up with much better names and the logos could be drawn up in minutes by an artist. They could have avoided all of this. Who cares if it’s USFL, USAFL, or UFL? If someone wants spring football, they will watch it if it’s good. ‘Nostaglia’ of a generic league who failed over 30 years ago isn’t going to be the reason people watch. People in their 50’s and older (who would remember the old league) aren’t generally going to watch spring football anyway. All of this court stuff is for nothing because someone at Fox saw value in something that really – on it’s own – has none. Of course the original USFL people see value in that they think they can get free money for a dead horse because someone else has picked it up.

  10. Please tune into USFL football, and cheer for your local team. It is going to be fantastic, action-packed football. Shame on you if you miss out. Many millions of people will be watching, make sure you do, too! Being a Philadelphia area resident, I say GO STARS!!!!

  11. The USFL was losing money hand over fist. The league had to take over the Chicago Blitz so the team would finish the season. The teams were nowhere near stable at all. Lots of empty seats. This version along with the XFL might make it 4 weeks before they get shutdown due to owners losing massive cash.

  12. By using the logos and names, the new USFL is creating value for the old USFL. The more it hurts them, the more it helps them.

  13. I loved the old USFL! Two of the best football games I ever saw were USFL games. the old Philadelphia Stars coming back to beat George Allen’s Chicago Blitz twice, once in the playoffs. Good times!

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