The Original USFL’s Owners and Executives Sue the New USFL
Just about a week after the 2022 United States Football League (USFL) Draft, Fox Sports and the new USFL are being sued by former owners and executives from the original USFL, who claim that the new football league is using the original's branding without permission.
Under the name "The Real USFL, LLC", the original league filed a lawsuit in California on Monday, claiming that despite having the same name, the new league has no association with them whatsoever and that Fox Sports is violating their trademarks by using the same names and logos.
All eight teams in the new USFL have the same name as the old USFL. Those teams are: the Birmingham Stallions, Houston Gamblers, Michigan Panthers, New Jersey Generals, New Orleans Breakers, Philadelphia Stars, Pittsburgh Maulers, and Tampa Bay Bandits.
The original USFL was found in 1983 and lasted until 1986, where it consisted of 18 teams who competed during the spring and summer for three seasons. After their second season, the original USFL filed an antitrust lawsuit against the NFL that would amount to around $1.7 billion in damages.
A couple of the chief claims in the lawsuit were that the NFL used monopoly power to maintain control over professional football and that the NFL attempted to control the television market by using their existing contracts with major networks like ABC, CBS, and NBC to pressure them into not airing the USFL, along with seven other charges.
In 1986, the jury did actually find the NFL guilty of monopolizing the professional football market, but only made the league pay the original USFL $1 in damages, which was multiplied to $3 under the antitrust laws. The jury ruled in favor of the NFL in the other eight charges due to them finding no evidence otherwise as well as them believing that the USFL made many poor financial decisions that they ended up sabotaging themselves with, such as trying to move their season to the fall to compete with the NFL. The USFL, who was banking on winning the lawsuit to keep them afloat financially, soon suspended operations and never played another game.
According to the complaint by Real USFL, Fox Sports argues that the old USFL abandoned the trademarks after not playing for nearly 30 years, so they believed that they were free to use them.
"Fox could have easily started its own league with new teams, but instead chose to take the goodwill and nostalgia of the original league without the permission of the people who actually created it,” Alex Brown, co-counsel for the original USFL owners and executives, said in a press release. “Fox can’t dispute that the ‘Real USFL’ marks are recognizable and valued because they’re using them and purposefully confusing its league with the original. Rather than do the right thing, Fox has chosen to try and bully the prior owners into submission. That’s not going to happen."
David Bernstein, counsel to Fox Sports and USFL Enterprises, responded to the lawsuit in a statement, saying:
"The lawsuit filed yesterday by an entity formed just a week ago is completely without merit. The new USFL registered its intellectual property rights in 2011 and is excited to launch games on schedule on April 16. The eleventh-hour attempt to extract value from the exciting new USFL is utterly frivolous, and we are exploring all options for redress."
The 2022 USFL season is set to kickoff April 16 with the New Jersey Generals and the Birmingham Stallions at Protective Stadium in Birmingham, Alabama, though the lawsuit has the power to possibly change anything before this date such as the name of the league, the kickoff date, or even could cancel the whole league.
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