The Baltimore Ravens of the National Football League were found to have infringed the copyright of a logo designer named Beuchat, in coming up with a new logo (affirmed by the Fourth Circuit back in 2000). The damages trial has now concluded and the jury came back with zero damages (decision not yet posted but check here). Law.com reports that the jury must have been swayed by the Ravens’ counsel’s argument: the revenue from the team’s merchandise had “nothing to do with the logo per se but everything to do with fans, NFL brands and the power of professional football” (emphasis mine).
There is a certain irony in hearing Baltimore fans getting credit for the goodwill of the RAVENS brand? They must now be wondering two things. First, where are the royalty checks and second, how stupid were they in 1984? At that time, when Baltimore Colts’ owner Robert Irsay moved the team to Indianapolis, Baltimore was so outraged that the City brought an unsuccessful eminent domain action in an attempt to seize ownership of the Colts. Indianapolis Colts v. Mayor and City Council of Baltimore [741 F.2d 954 (7th Cir. 1984)]; [733 F.2d 484 (7th Cir. 1984)] (not available in digital format).
Baltimore took a second shot at reclaiming what it believed to be its own in 1993, throwing its support behind a new Baltimore Colts, this a CFL franchise. The Seventh Circuit took little time to find that the Indianapolis Colts did not abandon the mark when they moved, and that BALTIMORE CFL COLTS was confusingly similar to BALTIMORE COLTS. To illustrate how the anger had not died after a decade, Johnny Unitas, famed Colts quarterback from the 60’s, testified that the Indianapolis transplants were not his Colts. To which Chief Justice Posner of the Chicago School of Metaphors replied: “a sports team is like a Heraclitus’ river, always changing, always the same.” Really.
Clearly, the fans of Baltimore should merely have framed the problem back in 1984 as a dispute among owners.