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Indianapolis Colts v Metropolitan Baltimore Football Club Ltd Partnership

Indianapolis Colts v Metropolitan Baltimore Football Club Ltd Partnership
34 F.3d 410 (7th Cir. Ind. 1994)

Facts: The NFL formerly had a team in Baltimore that was named the Baltimore Colts. The owner of this team packed up the team and moved them, completely intact, to another location in Indianapolis. Recently, the Canadian Football League (CFL) granted a team to Baltimore. The league wanted to name this team the Baltimore Colts, but the NFL objected so the league renamed the team the Baltimore CFL Colts. The NFL again moved for a preliminary injunction.

Procedural History: The District Court granted a permanent injunction against the CFL and the new Baltimore team played the first two games of the season with no name.

Holding: This Court affirmed the injunction and the new Baltimore team was not allowed to use the name “Colts” in any of its naming.

Critical Analysis: The defendants main claim is that the NFL’s Baltimore Colts abandoned their trademark when they moved to Indianapolis and so they should be able to use the mark since it was abandoned. The Court agreed that the trademark had been abandoned, but it cautioned that any subsequent use of the trademark need to have reasonable steps taken to prevent confusion between the prior use and the subsequent use. To prove this point, both parties provided expert studies. The Court basically dismisses the defendants report because it merely consisted of three loaded questions asked only in a Baltimore mall. The plaintiff’s report was much more substantial. In this report it was found that 64% of people thought that the Baltimore CFL Colts was either the original Baltimore Colts or the new Indianapolis Colts. A majority of people were also confused on the identity of what exactly the CFL was, even football watchers. The Court found that this showed that the confusion was likely to cause the NFL to lose consumers, and therefore defendants were infringing.

Future Importance: This has obviously impacted the way that other sports teams are allowed to name their franchises. The Court did distinguish and say that the Colts trademark could be used in other things besides football because there would be no confusion. This Court probably single-handedly led to the way that the Cleveland Browns handled the situation when the original Browns left town. The city made sure that they kept the name and trademarks “Cleveland Browns” and that the new Baltimore team would have to change its name to something else. This was so that when Cleveland got another football team, it would be able to name it the Cleveland Browns and not face the same challenges as the Baltimore CFL Colts.


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Page last modified on Thursday 03 of December, 2009 14:09:39 GMT by cnoedtyt.
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