Fox Sports’ planned launch of the USFL this year is being challenged by former owners of the original American football league who claim the network is using its trademarks without permission in what is a “counterfeit” league.
The Real USFL LLC, a company formed to protect the trademarks of the 1980s spring football league, sued Fox Sports Monday seeking injunctions to stop the network from using the name USFL and any of the original league’s team names or logos.
“Fox has no claim to this legacy and no right to capitalize on the goodwill of the league,” the Real USFL said in its complaint, filed in federal court in Los Angeles. “Fox’s USFL franchise is an unabashed counterfeit.”
The suit could create turmoil for Fox Sports, which plans to broadcast the first game of the inaugural season in conjunction with NBC on April 16. The league is set to start with eight teams, including the New Jersey Generals, Michigan Panthers and Birmingham Stallions, the same names used by the United States Football League that lasted from 1983 to 1986.
Fox claimed that the original USFL has been defunct for more than 30 years and abandoned its trademarks, after being approached by representatives of the original teams, according to the complaint.
Larry Csonka, former general manager of the USFL’s Jacksonville Bulls and a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, questions the assertion by Fox Sports that the league and its franchise brands have no value today.
“It boils down to this,” Csonka said. “If the USFL doesn’t have any value, why did Fox want it?”
Csonka is acting as the initial manager of the ownership group bringing the lawsuit.
Fox didn’t immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.
Fox’s lawyers also sent a letter on Dec. 23 to American Classics, a company that was selling original USFL merchandise, ordering it to stop and recall all the products, according to the complaint. The broadcaster accused American Classics of “unlawful conduct,” Real USFL said. American Classics agreed to stop to avoid litigation, according to the complaint.
The case is The Real USFL LLC v. Fox Sports Inc., 2:22-cv-01350, U.S. District Court, Southern District of California (Los Angeles).
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