Before the pandemic hit, could anyone imagine the Rose Bowl being hosted anywhere other than Pasadena? Trademark litigation between the city and the Tournament of Roses Association suggests the people and organizations responsible for the long-standing New Year’s Day tradition never imagined they would actually be in such a position.
2020 was a year unlike any other. The coronavirus pandemic disrupted our daily lives and showed us just how fragile many institutions we assumed were unshakeable truly are.
In an effort to cling to a bit of normalcy, and capture a fraction of the millions of dollars they generate, great pains were taken to bring back sporting events. Players lived in bubbles and were tested much more than the general population. Cardboard cutouts replaced fans in the stands, and crowd noise was pumped into the stadium or added in by television broadcasters.
Over the summer, college football teams announced they were gearing up for as normal of a season as possible. This included the intention to play bowl games and declare one team national champions. Local health officials grimaced, but nearly everyone else rejoiced.
It turned out those local health officials, and state health policymakers, were more powerful than anyone suspected. Since large crowds were completely forbidden, the Tournament of Roses Association, which hosts the Rose Bowl parade and game each New Year’s Day in Pasadena, was forced to cancel the parade and decided to move the game to Texas in order to allow players’ families to attend.
The decision to move the game raised an important question: Is the Rose Bowl still the Rose Bowl if it is not held in Rose Bowl Stadium?
According to Above the Law, “The Pasadena Tournament of Roses Association owns a federal registration to the Rose Bowl Game trademark and has possessed the registration since 1975. It has also owned registrations for Rose Bowl in connection with clothing, jewelry, playing cards, and balloons for many years. However, the City of Pasadena has owned the trademark registration for the Rose Bowl word mark in connection with promoting sports competitions since 2000.”
The value of these marks is considerable. College football in general is a big money-maker, but the Rose Bowl game and parade are iconic. Watching them on tv is a New Year’s Day tradition for many families, and the stadium itself is a National Historic Landmark. Even people who are not football fans know about the Rose Bowl.
When the football game was moved to a different stadium, but still called the Rose Bowl, the promoters were drawing on the goodwill tied to the Rose Bowl brand. Now, the value and goodwill tied to the Rose Bowl brand are the subject of a lawsuit. The City of Pasadena and the Tournament of Roses Association are suing each other over the ownership of the Rose Bowl trademark and the decision to move the game.
From across the country, the Lomnitzer Law team is closely watching this lawsuit. Although we are located in South Florida, trademark law has federal jurisdiction. What happens in the Rose Bowl lawsuit could have an impact on our clients, especially since this is a very high-profile case.
If you are involved in a trademark dispute, the Lomnitzer Law team is here to help. Please contact us today to schedule an initial consultation.