Fox Sports sued by 1980s club owners over new American football league

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FOX Sports signage on display prior to a NFC Divisional playoff football game between the San Francisco 49ers and Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

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  • Owners of 80s league said they didn't authorize new USFL
  • Fox accused of falsely claiming its league is heir to original

(Reuters) - A company affiliated with the 1980s-era United States Football League sued Fox Sports on Monday in Los Angeles federal court, calling Fox's new league with the same name an "unabashed counterfeit."

The lawsuit said Fox copied the original USFL's logo and team branding without permission, and "traded on the false narrative" that the new league is a relaunch of the original.

The first USFL ran for three seasons from 1983 through 1985, and featured hall-of-fame players including Steve Young, Reggie White and Herschel Walker.

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The Real USFL LLC, a holding company created by the league's former team owners, said it still licenses USFL trademarks to use on throwback clothing as well as books and films about the league.

The lawsuit said Fox bought its USFL trademark rights from a company unrelated to the original league.

Fox announced last year that it would "bring back" the USFL this spring. Its first game is scheduled for April 16.

The lawsuit said the original league's owners tried and failed to resolve the dispute, and that Fox's lawyers argued the original league had abandoned its trademarks.

"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," the original league's attorney Nicholas Matich of McKool Smith said in a statement Monday.

Fox Sports didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

The case is The Real USFL LLC v. Fox Sports Inc, U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, No. 2:22-cv-01350.

For the original league: Nicholas Matich and Kirk Dillman of McKool Smith, Alex Brown and Mark Lanier of the Lanier Law Firm

For Fox: n/a

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Blake Brittain reports on intellectual property law, including patents, trademarks, copyrights and trade secrets. Reach him at blake.brittain@thomsonreuters.com