Jeb Corliss Sues Empire State Building

February 5, 2008

Lia Fazzone at the Defense Zzone (clever blog name, eh?) reports on Jeb Corliss’ lawsuit against the Empire State Building. Corliss was charged with reckless endangerment for his attempted BASE jump from the building, but managed to escape liability. See BASE Jumping and the Law.

The Empire State Building sued Corliss in civil court, where he prevailed again. Now Corliss is on the attack — suing for defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The guards handcuffed him to the building. Had his chute deployed, the force would have torn him to shreds.

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Patriots File for “19-0” Trademark

February 3, 2008

If this is your first visit to the Legal Satyricon, click here.

Filing for a 19-0 trademark before the Superbowl… Hubris? Smart business? I guess we’ll know tonight.

On January 17, Bob Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots filed two trademark applications for “19-0” and “19-0 The Perfect Season”. The applications are filed as “intent to use” (ITU) applications under section 1(b). Naturally, 19-0 has not yet been used in commerce. If all goes well today, I suppose that it will be used in commerce within a few seconds of the end of the Superbowl.

I see possible issues with this application. It seems to me that the Patriots shouldn’t be the only organization to sell T shirts that say “19-0.” Nevertheless, it might proceed to registration.

There is a bit of a conflict here too. A man by the name of William Harpole filed his own application for “19-0 The Perfect Season” back on November 8. However, I get the feeling that Mr. Harpole will not succeed in his quest to squat on the trademark. In order to properly file an ITU, the applicant must have a bona fide intent to use the mark in commerce. Looking at Mr. Harpole’s application, I doubt that he has the intent to do anything except squat on the trademark rights.

ESPN needs new legal advisors.

I just heard an ESPN broadcast where they said that Harpole “patented” the term.

ESPN, please do your homework. You register a trademark, not patent a word.

They also reported that Kraft might settle with him for 5 percent of his anticipated profits.

That is not only wrong, but abjectly stupid to report.

Superbowl Ticket Terms

February 3, 2008

I’m probably one of the only people who bothered to read the terms on the back of my superbowl tickets. Naturally, the spectator must assume all personal injuries that are incidental to the game of football.

Here is a clause that makes me bristle a little bit:

The ticket holder will not transmit or aid in transmitting any picture, account or description (whether text, data or visual) in any media now or hereafter existing of all or part of the football game or related events.

My uncle laughed at this. “So if someone calls me on my cell phone and asks ‘how’s the game,’ I can’t say anything?”

Technically, yes. Under these terms I can’t even send a text message to someone saying “Patriots just scored!” Would this be enforceable in court? I doubt it. However, I don’t imagine that too many ticket holders will bother to challenge it, nor do I imagine that there is any way to realistically enforce this to its most absurd end.

The terms also have a right of publicity clause:

The ticket holder grants to the NFL and its designees the irrevocable permission to use his or her voice or likeness in any media now or hereafter existing in connection with all or any part of the football game or related events, for any purpose whatsoever, including the commercial purposes of the NFL, its sponsors, licensees, advertisers or broadcasters.

This seems reasonable. The NFL shouldn’t need to track down every spectator who winds up on camera to get a specific release from them.

Both clauses really are pretty broad and draconian. But, the right of publicity clause recognizes that when you are a spectator at a football game, you need to recognize that you are part of the event. However, that same logic would seem to dissolve the transmission clause.


Fantasy Baseball Gets First Amendment Protection

October 17, 2007

In 2006, the Eastern District of Missouri held that the operator of a Web site offering fantasy baseball games using Major League Baseball player names and statistics did not violate the right of publicity or copyright rights of the players. C.B.C. Distrib. & Mktg. v. Major League Baseball Advanced Media, L.P., 443 F. Supp. 2d 1077 (E.D. Mo. 2006).

Undaunted, MLB appealed and was smacked down yesterday. See C.B.C. Distrib. & Mktg. v. Major League Baseball Advanced Media, L.P., __ F.3d __ (8th Cir. 2007). While there are tangential issues, the important one in this case is the court’s balancing of MLB players’ publicity rights vs. The First Amendment.

An action based on the right of publicity is a state-law claim. See Zacchini v. Scripps-Howard Broad. Co., 433 U.S. 562, 566 (1977). In Missouri, “the elements of a right of publicity action include: (1) That defendant used plaintiff’s name as a symbol of his identity (2) without consent (3) and with the intent to obtain a commercial advantage.” Doe v. TCI Cablevision, 110 S.W.3d 363, 369 (Mo. 2003), cert. denied, 540 U.S. 1106 (2004). (source)

Many celebrities, wealthy, and otherwise overly-privileged citizens have this bizarre belief that their status means that the law does not apply to them. (example) Unfortunately, courts occasionally get star-struck and agree with them. Not this time. The Eight Circuit blessedly gave the MLB a lesson in First Amendment law — the Right of Publicity does not trump the First Amendment.

The Supreme Court has directed that state law rights of publicity must be balanced against first amendment considerations, see Zacchini v. Scripps-Howard Broad., 433 U.S. 562 (1977), and here we conclude that the former must give way to the latter. First, the information used in CBC’s fantasy baseball games is all readily available in the public domain, and it would be strange law that a person would not have a first amendment right to use information that is available to everyone. It is true that CBC’s use of the information is meant to provide entertainment, but “[s]peech that entertains, like speech that informs, is protected by the First Amendment because ‘[t]he line between the informing and the entertaining is too elusive for the protection of that basic right.’ ” Cardtoons, L.C. v. Major League Baseball Players Ass’n, 95 F.3d 959, 969 (10th Cir. 1996) (quoting Winters v. New York, 333 U.S. 507, 510 (1948)); see also Zacchini, 433 U.S. at 578.

SFX Sports v.

August 17, 2007

It seems that someone has registered SFX Sports, Mariano Rivera’s talent agency and marketing company sent this cease & desist letter to the registrant of

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Central Mfg. v. George Brett

July 9, 2007

An interesting sports/trademark case. Leo Stoller, a well-known trademark squatter. Leo Stoller went out and registered a slew of trademarks containing common words — banking on the thought that eventually someone would want to use that mark. Essentially, he is a cybersquatter who doesn’t use domain names. His mark — STEALTH.

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Pat Down Searches at NFL Games – Bye Bye Fourth Amendment

July 8, 2007

In a fan challenge to routine pat-down searches, the Western District of Washington (Seattle) tossed a fan’s suit on the grounds that there was no state action in the case, thus no Fourth Amendment violation. See Stark v. Seattle Seahawks.

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Latrell Sprewell Defamation Case

July 8, 2007

Latrell Sprewell gets a “boxer’s fracture,” Boxer’s fractures are when you break the metacarpal bone in your hand.

When asked, Sprewell appears to have been evasive about how it happened, and then finally said it happened when he was “frantically pulling on a rope” in rough waters. The New York Post’s bullshit detector went off, and they interviewed a number of witnesses who wouldn’t go on the record, but would confirm that there was a brawl, and that is how Sprewell broke his hand. Sprewell sues the Post for defamation.

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BASE Jumping and the Law

June 22, 2007

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There is likely no more effective way to flush the system with adrenaline than with a BASE jump. BASE, for the uninitiated, is an acronym for building, antenna, span, and environment. In other words, the four elements from which a BASE jump may commence. The first two have an obvious meaning. Span and environment are bridges and, essentially, cliffs. (For a history of the sport, click here).

One would imagine that such a risk-prone activity would spawn a fair amount of litigation. However, a review of the Lexis database reveals very few cases that have arisen out of BASE jumping activities. This article will analyze those cases and attempt to discover any common threads.

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NFL Drops “Big Game” Trademark Bid

May 29, 2007

In one of the most foolish (but not the MOST foolish) trademark maneuvers I’ve ever seen, the NFL was seeking to trademark “The Big Game.” Article here.

Jeffrey Standen, a professor of Sports Law at Willamette University blogged about it here, where we also had a nice discussion about the issue. Ron Coleman wrote a great entry about this as well on his Likelihood of Confusion(R) blog.

Honestly, I think Coleman makes fun of this idiocy enough that I don’t really need to.


Apparently, someone at the NFL must have read, oh, a trademark law nutshell, and reconsidered. I think that AOL Sports Blog has a better knowledge of trademark law than whichever genius advised the NFL to file for that mark in the first place.

[T]hinking it [the NFL] could control the use of words that are just generic descriptors was stupid, and thinking it could control those words when they had been part of another sporting event for decades before there ever was a Super Bowl was really stupid.

(Note, if you are a student in my Sports Law class and you want to comment on this posting, make sure you do so on the class blog).

It’s Raining (Very Fat) Men!

May 13, 2007

Ok, I admit it, I stole the headline from Deadspin. So, consider it a tribute to that blog’s headline writing genius.

In addition to Deadspin, MSNBC reports:

NEW YORK – A New York Mets fan has filed suit, contending a drunken, 300-pound man fell on her during the home opener at Shea Stadium and broke her back.

After serving as a landing pad for a drunken Mets fan (by the way, we harbor no ill will toward the Mets on this blog), she spent two weeks in the hospital, had spinal surgery, and apparently has some pretty exotic metal hardware to carry with her for a while.

What do the mets have to say?

“We believe the claim has no merit,” the Mets said in a statement.

Huh? Exqueeze me?

Perhaps it does have no merit. Then again, it might. What is their defense? She assumed the risk that a drunk idiot would fall on her? Then again, what preventative measures could the Mets have taken?

While the Mets appear to have decent legal counsel, they should torture their public relations firm with angry bees and David Hasselhoff’s music.

Another Reason the Yankees Suck

May 10, 2007

It is no secret that I hate the Yankees, Steinbrenner, and pretty much anything in pinstripes. But for god’s sake, does George have to make it this easy for me to gain converts?

Another thing I hate, which brings us to the current Yankee-hating issue, is the jingoistic empty-headed false patriotism that infected everything in America, starting on September 12, 2001. Patriotism is about loving the principles your country stands for, not stupid magnets on your car, flags on your house, or any other mass-hysteria imposed conformity.

As many MLB fans may recall, the league asked us to “show our patriotism” by standing for “God Bless America” during the seventh inning stretch. They later slacked off from that — I guess we didn’t need to be that patriotic. Now they ask that teams have this faux patriotism event only on Sundays and holidays. Perhaps on those days, godless atheists and non-christians don’t go to ball games.

The Yankees, never to be outdone when it comes to douchebag-ness, are the only team that still requires that its patrons respect the authoritah of the state during the stretch.

Ok, I could live with that. I think it is stupid, but I can live with it. I’d prefer that they place quotes from the Constitution on the Jumbotron or something, but I can live iwth it.

However, you don’t actually have a choice at Yankee Stadium, as reported by the New York Times.

By mid-October 2001, the Yankees’ implemented a system using off-duty uniformed police officers, ushers, stadium security personnel and the aisle chains to restrict movement. The Yankees pay the city to use police officers as part of the security detail.

[Lonn A. Trost, the team’s chief operating officer] said the ushers were instructed to allow fans with emergencies to move through the stands. Because one end of each chain is held by a person, instead of secured in place, the system is not considered a fire hazard, a spokeswoman for the New York Fire Department said.

Trost said the Yankees have not heard any complaints about either the continued playing of “God Bless America” or the restrictions on movement.

The plan was apparently a reaction to some fans complaints that other fans were not “showing the proper respect” to God Bless America.

So, to celebrate our freedom and patriotism, the scum sucking Yankees have hired police and surrounded fans with chains in order to show them how free we are.

Some other blogs entries on this subject:

  1. Jon Katz’ Underdog Blog
  2. Daily Kos
  3. Aol Sports Blog
  4. Deadspin
  5. Dave Copeland
  6. I-55: Inspirations drawn from a Cubs/Cards Rivalry

Aaah Throw Pizza in Your General Direction!

April 20, 2007

I had a link to the youtube video of the Fenway Pizza Throwing Fiasco. Unfortunately, MLB doesn’t think that this was fair use, and it has been removed.

Honestly, the best part is the announcers’ commentary about it.

Here is the video, until someone cries about it:

Part 1

Part 2 (This is the really funny part)

What is rapidly becoming my favorite sports blog, Deadspin, provides the best reporting that I could find on the incident:

It’s ultimately a tale of fans shit-talking each other and one beleaguered Boston girlfriend just trying to keep the peace while her drunken Red Sox boyfriend wants to fight. Boston ladies … this is pretty much what every day is like, right?

Basically, the guy who missed the ball and received the pizza toss had, earlier in the game, been mocking the pizza tosser for eating a pizza in the stands. So when he missed the foul ball, all was fair game.

They had been giving us shit about it,” Madore said. “Next thing I know, there’s a fly ball to left field and it goes foul and my buddy says, ‘You want some pizza now?’ And he hits him right in the face. Hey, the guy wasn’t paying attention. When you’re in the stands you’ve got to be ready for anything – a foul ball, a flying slice of pizza, everything.

On a personal note, I believe that I know this guy. While the “victim” appears to be completely innocent, it sounds like he was trash talking. Now, that doesn’t necessarily justify beaning him with a slice, but I kinda get it.

I believe that the guy who got pelted with the pizza is a friend of a friend (I’m confirming this). I met up with the guy at Boston’s The Good Life back in, gosh, it must have been 2002 or so. He ordered a cosmopolitan. Yes, that’s right. A man ordered a cosmopolitan. I asked the waitress if she’d also bring him a little black dress to wear while he drank it, but she said that none were available. I am happy to see that in the video, he appears to have learned how to drink properly.

Update and correction — this was not the cosmopolitan guy. Wrong guy. To the best of my knowledge, this man has never ordered a cosmopolitan.

The Comments on Deadspin are absolutely hilarious. Some of the better ones:

  1. “Get him a body bag, yeah!” wrote:

    Later that evening…

    “Bro, you don’t even fahckin know guy, dude was like tossin pizzas at me like it was fahckin Pearl Hahbah kid. So I says to Sully I says “Dood, should I fahck him up?” and Sully’s like “I dunno guy, you’re pretty hammahd. Then I called my Ma and tole her to leave the door unlocked cuz I’ll be home wicked late tonight.”

  2. “Da Mang” wrote:

    There may have been a second thrower from the Green Monster.

    Having been to Boston a few times, I’m willing to bet the term “You Fahkin Homo” was used more that once in that little exchange.

  3. “Will Leitch’s Unfinished Novel” wrote:

    Ahh, bringing me back to my wistful days of yore sitting in the old ballpark. Fenway truly brings out the best in people.

    *wiping a tear away from eye*

I came across this while reading about the incident. It has no bearing on anything, except how funny Jerry Remy & Dennis Leary can be together:

Pat Downs Restrained in Tampa!

April 2, 2007

The Tampa Sports Authority (TSA) had a policy of conducting pat down searches of every attendee at Tampa Bay Buccaneers games – pursuant to a request by the Bucs themselves. A season ticket holder sued the Authority, arguing that these searches violated his Fourth Amendment rights.

The court held that Fla. Const. art. I, § 12 protects the same rights as the Fourth Amendment, a protection against unreasonable search and seizure. Interestingly, and correctly, the court held that the TSA was a government actor for the purposes of Fourth Amendment analysis.

Some nice quotes from the opinion:

The Fourth Amendment embodies a value judgment by the framers of the U.S. Constitution that prevents courts from gradually trading ever-increasing amounts of freedom and privacy for additional security. It establishes searches based on evidence–rather than potentially effective, broad prophylactic dragnets–as the constitutional norm.

And if only this one could make its way into mainstream thinking…

A generalized fear of terrorism should not diminish the fundamental Fourth Amendment protection envisioned by our Founding Fathers. Our Constitution requires more.

See Johnson v. Tampa Sports Authority, 442 F.Supp.2d 1257 (M.D.Fla. 2006).

This case discussed elsewhere:

  1. Sports Law Blog entry on Johnson v. TSA
  2. ACLU press release
  3. The order itself, courtesy of the ACLU
  4. The Sporting News