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  • Writer's pictureDavid Baker

The “Grand Daddy of Them All” Trademark Lawsuit

Capping the weird 2020-2021 NCAA football season, the Alabama Crimson Tide beat the Ohio State Buckeyes 52-24 in the College Football National Championship Game last month. The Championship was played at the Orange Bowl venue, but the Orange Bowl® football game had already been played nine days earlier between Texas A&M and North Carolina. Adding to the confusion, Alabama had already played in the Rose Bowl® football game on January 1, beating Notre Dame 31 to 14, but that game was played at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The net result of all this was one more football championship for Alabama and one whopper of a trademark lawsuit for the rest of us.

It seems there was already trouble brewing when the Rose Bowl® game was moved to Texas (to allow limited attendance at AT&T Stadium because California’s Governor Newsom had banned fans from the game due to COVID-19 concerns) because there are competing claims to the Rose Bowl trademark.

Traditionally, the Rose Bowl® football game has been played at the Rose Bowl® stadium on New Year’s Day after the Rose Parade® event takes place in the streets of Pasadena, California and pits the winner of the PAC-12 against the winner of the Big 10. But since the Football Bowl Series (FBS) took over the task of determining a “national champion” bowl games such as the Rose Bowl® game have alternated as hosts of the championship game and the semifinal games leading up to it.

This year the FBS really wanted a crowd, albeit a small one, at the Rose Bowl® game so it made an arrangement with AT& Stadium to host the game and with the City of Pasadena for permission to call the game the "Rose Bowl® Game." After all, the City of Pasadena owns several federally registered trademarks for ROSE BOWL, including the iconic logo with the single rose stem, for “providing stadium facilities for sporting events, concerts and recreational activities” (USPTO TM Reg. No. 2288445). Case settled, right? Wrong.

Oddly enough, the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Association, Inc., which organizes and presents the Rose Parade® event (and owns registered trademarks for ROSE PARADE), also owns federally registrations for the ROSE BOWL, including a registration (USPTO TM Reg. No. 1022242) for “entertainment and educational services-namely, organizing, promoting and staging an annual intersectional football game and related events.” And the Association never gave permission to use the ROSE BOWL mark in relation to the football game played in Arlington.

Now, it will be up to a California court to try and sort out this mess.

[On a strangely unrelated note, Ocean Crown Products, Inc. of Anaheim owns a ROSE BOWL federal registration for “canned and frozen seafood.” (USPTO TM Reg. No. 5279038).]

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