Court Hears Copyright Lawsuit Over Baltimore Ravens Old Logo

By | December 8, 2009

The Baltimore Ravens should be barred from selling old game films that show players wearing the NFL team’s original logo, a lawyer for the amateur artist who designed the “Flying B” told a federal appeals court Friday.

A jury ruled in 1998 that the Ravens stole the logo idea from Frederick Bouchat but refused to award damages. The franchise adopted a new logo the following year, and Bouchat has never received any compensation for the team’s use of his design from 1996 through 1998. Bouchat had sought $10 million.

Now Bouchat wants the courts to prohibit any commercial use of materials depicting the original logo — a shield with the letter B in the middle, flanked by wings. U.S. District Judge Marvin Grabis ruled that the appearance of the logo is incidental and a fair use by the franchise and NFL Films. Bouchat appealed that ruling.

A three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals appeared divided during a nearly hour-long hearing.

“The remedy you’re asking is to blot out three years of history,” Judge Paul V. Niemeyer told Bouchat’s lawyer, Howard Schulman.

Niemeyer said the Ravens are no longer promoting the team with the logo but are using it historically “because they’re stuck with it.” He suggested that the mere presence of the logo in archival materials is not a trademark infringement.

Judge Roger Gregory seemed to differ, citing the jury’s finding that Bouchat was ripped off.

“You have a history of infringement that you are marketing and making money off of, right?” Gregory asked Robert Raskopf, an attorney for the Ravens.

Raskopf said people buy the films for the game action, not to look at the logo.

Schulman said the logo is more than just a piece of history — it is a goodwill symbol that continues to benefit the franchise.

“They can find other ways to communicate their history,” he said.

The appeals court usually takes several weeks to issue a ruling.

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