UPDATED: A lawyer representing Fox Sports and the new United States Football League has responded to a lawsuit filed yesterday by an organization of owners and executives from the original, 1980s-era USFL.
David Bernstein of Debevoise & Plimpton, counsel to Fox Sports and USFL Enterprises, said in a statement:
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.
Nicholas Matich, an attorney representing the organization of former USFL owners and executives mainatined yesterday that “Fox is trying to reap where it did not sow and profit from confusion among fans of the real USFL, by claiming the legacy of something it didn’t build.”
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PREVIOUSLY on Monday: An organization of owners and executives from the original United States Football League filed suit today in Los Angeles to block Fox Sports’ planned launch of a new version of the legacy league.
Fox Sports’ USFL is scheduled to begin play April 16, with all eight teams using the same franchise names, logos and other materials associated with the original USFL, according to the lawsuit.
The USFL operated from 1983 to 1985 and included such players as future Pro Football Hall of Fame members Steve Young and Jim Kelly. The USFL kicked off in 1983 as a spring league then tried to make the jump to fall in 1986 to compete with the NFL. Among its team owners was New Jersey Generals’ Donald Trump, who hoped to force a merger with the NFL but ended up helping to kill the new league. No word on whether Trump is involved in the new suit.
Since that time, the league’s owners and executives have tried to preserve its legacy through displays at the Pro Football Hall of Fame, licensing agreements for fan apparel and an authorized documentary and book about the league, the suit, filed in Los Angeles federal court, says.
“Fox is trying to reap where it did not sow and profit from confusion among fans of the real USFL, by claiming the legacy of something it didn’t build,” said Nicholas Matich, an attorney representing the Real USFL LLC, the organization of former USFL owners and executives.
“The Real USFL is acting to protect the legacy of the players, owners, coaches, and staff of the historic league. Quite simply Fox is claiming to be something that it’s not — the heir of the 1980s league that launched numerous hall-of-fame careers and changed the game of football.”
A message seeking comment from a Fox Sports representative was not immediately answered after regular business hours.
The lawsuit further alleges that Fox Sports and its attorneys have tried to intimidate officially licensed vendors to stop the sale of USFL merchandise, claiming that Fox holds exclusive rights to the names and logos of all USFL teams.
“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,” said Alex Brown, co-counsel for the former USFL owners and executives.
“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.”
City News Service contributed to this report.
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