– Derek Allen, Attorney –
As a long-time Green Bay Packer fan (and, more recently, owner), I’ve always had an innate dislike of our old NFC Central and other-team-named-after-a-body-of-water rival, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. When I learned this fall that those very same Buccaneers slapped my alma mater, Beloit College, with a cease-and-desist letter in the late-1990s, Tampa Bay attained a level of animosity I’d previously reserved only for our neighbors to the west and south.
Perhaps jealous of our then-recent ESPY award for college football play of the year (Tampa Bay would have to wait until Jon Gruden’s Coach of the Year ESPY in 2003 before joining the elite club of ESPY winners), Tampa Bay and the NFL sent Beloit College a letter demanding that the football team stop using the “Bucco Bruce” logo. The league claimed that the similarity between the Beloit and Tampa Bay logos might “lead the public to mistakenly believe that Beloit College is affiliated with the NFL.” (I think Beloit spokesman Ron Nief more accurately described the problem facing the Tampa Bay teams of the early and mid-1990s when he said that the more likely concern was that “Tampa Bay might be mistaken for a small liberal arts college.”)
Beloit College President Vic Ferrall, a former partner at a prominent D.C. law firm, responded with a challenge that would surely favor Beloit: he challenged Tampa Bay to a game with the winner retaining the rights to use the logo. Tampa Bay, obviously frightened of Beloit’s 0-9 record during the 1996 season, refused, responding that it “needed to concentrate on the teams we have on our schedule.”
Weary of another potential gridiron challenge from mighty Beloit College, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers relented, changing their logo to its current version later that year. Beloit College, for its part, continues to charge into Strong Stadium each fall with Buccaneer Bruce at the helm. (Full disclosure: I’ve always preferred Beloit College’s unofficial logo.)
Do you agree with Duetblogger Catlan McCurdy’s moral of the story – that challenging opposing counsel to a physical battle is the answer to avoiding costly IP litigation?