On Monday, February 28, 2022, Fox Sports, Inc. was sued for trademark infringement by The Real USFL, LLC, in the U.S. District Court, Central District of California. The lawsuit claims that Fox Sports, Inc.’s United States Football League “is an unabashed counterfeit.”
Fox Sports planned to revive the United States Football League with a new season starting on April 22, 2022. Fox Sports’s league has no association with the original USFL, a professional football league that played in the 1980s. The complaint in the lawsuit alleges that Fox Sports has taken the original league’s name and logo, its team names, and team logos without permission. Further, the complaint contends that Fox Sports “has traded on the false narrative that Fox’s League and USFL teams are the offspring of the originals,” when they are not.
From 1982 through 1986, when the original USFL was active, the USFL obtained almost 400 trademark registrations for names and logos. Since that time, the trademarks have been used on apparel, books, and films. Fox Sports, through different assignments of interest, “purports to be the owner of 175 federal trademark registrations that are identical or confusingly similar to the Real USFL IP.” On June 3, 2021, Fox Sports used these trademark registrations to announce its new football league using a press release and tweets on Twitter. On November 22, 2021, Fox Sports announced that the new league would be using eight of the USFL’s team names and team logos. The complaint documents instances of Fox Sports and its broadcast partner, NBC, describing the new league as a return or relaunch of the original USFL. The complaint also notes that Fox Sports executives commented to the media “gush[ing] over the prospect of relaunching the nostalgic USFL brand.”
The lawsuit alleges federal and California claims for trademark infringement, false advertising, false association, and unfair competition. The complaint petitions for cancellation of the Fox Sports trademark registrations. Relief is requested in the form of preliminary and permanent injunctions, an accounting of profits and advantages received, a transfer of the www.theusfl.com domain name, a retraction and correction of statements made, and an award of attorneys’ fees.
Original USFL ex-owners file lawsuit aimed at new USFL, potentially halting start of spring football league, CBS Sports (March 1, 2022)
The Real USFL, LLC v. Fox Sports Inc et al (Case No. 2:2022cv01350)
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