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Tampa Bay Rowdies Change Name to FC Tampa Bay

2010 January 29
by Brian Quarstad

The new FC Tampa Bay logo unveiled on Wednesday. Will it be temporary?

What was formerly the Tampa Bay Rowdies, a name taken from the old North American Soccer League (NASL) team, is now FC Tampa Bay and the website that was tbrowdies.com will now redirect you to fctampabay.com. Confused? You should be.

About a year and a half ago, Citrus Sports Group LLC, who own the Tampa Bay Rowdies soccer team, launched their venture. However, there was another company who claimed ownership of the Tampa Bay Rowdies trademark, Classic Ink Inc. Classic Ink are not disputing the rights to run a soccer team, but they are involved with a lawsuit for rights to sell apparel.

Joe Leyba, who runs a website called Red Card Clothing and who has ended up in the middle of the two parties’ lawsuit last year, originally purchased wholesale Tampa Bay Rowdies shirts from Classic Ink. Leyba, who lives in the Twin Cities and also creates t-shirts and sells them on his website, said 2 months after getting the shirts and shortly after the team was announced in Florida, he received a “cease and desist” order for being in violation of trademark. Leyba contacted the team and they claimed they owned the trademark. The Tampa Bay Rowdies told Leyba he could sell the rest of the merchandise he had as long as he didn’t advertise. He told IMS that he thinks they were “mainly going after the big guys.”

But 2 months later Leyba was contacted again, this time by Classic Ink who also told him he was in violation of trademark. This was the same company from whom he had purchased the shirts. Leyba expressed his frustration in the matter but tried to explain what he thought was happening. He said he has viewed the lawsuit, which can be found here and it’s full of legalese. Leyba said he believes that Classic Ink Inc., which owns the trademarks to former NASL teams like the Minnesota Kicks, California Surf, and Chicago Sting, filed a lawsuit April 29, 2009 against the Rowdies, Citrus Sports Group LLC, Citrus Ventures, Team IP Sports LLC and Team IP Holdings LLC.  The lawsuit alleges that Classic Ink Inc. legally owns the trademark rights to the Tampa Bay Rowdies name and that collectively the defendants are accused of selling clothing items bearing the Tampa Bay Rowdies trademark.

The logo the new Tampa soccer team was using until Wednesday.

That same lawsuit alleges that a former owner of C.S. Anderson Enterprises, the company that later became Classic Ink, executed a false assignment of the Rowdies trademark to the soccer team’s owners in May 2008. In other words, the former owner of Classic Ink sold the rights to Citrus Sports Group LLC, but Classic Ink is claiming he didn’t have the right to do so.

The team formerly known as the Tampa Bay Rowdies had a very positive press conference on Wednesday and rolled out their new website as well. However, gone was any reference to the Rowdies and instead was  a team named FC Tampa Bay. As well, the domain name that used to be tbrowdies.com redirects you to fctampabay.com, a very handsome website. The team logo has also changed.

Andrew Nestor, owner, President and CEO of the team told IMS: “Our ownership group acquired the rights to operate a soccer team as the Tampa Bay Rowdies. We did that over a year and a half ago, that has not been challenged. There’s a lawsuit regarding rights to sell merchandise with the wordmark Tampa Bay Rowdies and the vintage logo. The new shield that we’ve used, obviously designed by us, those are new and we have those protected as well. So we’re just going through this process now trying to straighten out the situation regarding merchandise and that’s just an ongoing situation right now.”

Joe Leyba wearing one of his Tampa Bay Rowdies t-shirts

As to the name change on the logo and website, Nester didn’t want to share a lot but did say “there were a couple reasons for that.”
“I think it all kind of helps our position,” stated Nestor.

As to Leyba, he did end up selling most of his merchandise but still has one more X-tra large Tamba Bay Rowdies shirt that is still for sale. He says that the whole thing has sort of jaded him a bit and he’s lost a lot of interest in trying to sell t-shirts. He says that for now, the site has more-or-less turned into a t-shirt blog.

Andrew Nestor did a Q and A with IMS. You can see that complete interview here.

7 Responses
  1. Soccer Boy permalink
    January 29, 2010

    My two favorite topics: the law and soccer!

  2. dan permalink
    January 29, 2010

    anybody else tired of the whole fc throwing on teams. Im still going to call them the rawdies/muntiny

    i actually prefer Mutiny

  3. Johnny K permalink
    February 1, 2010

    It looks like its going to be: FC Tampa Bay Rowdies. Amazingly they still have an awful logo. They had the chance to make it look much better with the change. Did no one at TBR understand that there font was too small. Thankfulyl you can now read the name of the city. However, there is a barely visible ball in the C of FC. Looks like it was made by someone’s child art teacher. We can do better than that!

  4. Johnny K permalink
    February 1, 2010

    PS – it never ceases to amaze me how many private entities looking for money i nthe USA can and do hold back the sport for their own selfish needs. Even really pety ones, like selling a few t-shirts per year.

    Classic Ink Inc has no business holding the rights to the trademarks for Tampa Bay Rowdies, Minnesota Kicks, California Surf and Chicago Sting.

    Imagine a small-time peddler in West London wanted to do that to Chelsea, now that’s funny.

  5. February 1, 2010

    “Classic Ink Inc has no business holding the rights to the trademarks for Tampa Bay Rowdies, Minnesota Kicks, California Surf and Chicago Sting.”

    Except that that’s not how business works. I don’t recall those four trademarks being overly valuable until recently. Until this team came back, they were sitting on a negligible investment, no?

    They’re running a business, not a charity.

  6. February 2, 2010

    Totally agree KT, I just hadn’t gotten a chance to respond. Perhaps a bit exaggerated, but you could say how dare a mom and pop store not want to move and stand in the way of Wall-mart. That’s what we are all about here in the US. You would like to think the little guy gets the same rights as the big corporation but we know that isn’t really the case because money talks and has with it, its own set of privileges.

    I think in this case its more about someone purchasing the rights to the logo and someone else saying that whoever sold them the rights never actually had the legal rights to those rights. Wow, with all these rights, how could I be wrong?

    Hey, KT, not sure what to do about it but your comments always go to “spam” so I never seem them till I sort though that once a day. Sorry for the delay. For some reason my spam filter doesn’t see cookies coming in from your end. (Seems to me we’ve had this issue before. :) )

  7. February 2, 2010

    Or, let’s say this: I buy a piece of scrub brush land that’s not much to look at and not in a good location. I do nothing but pay taxes on it and let it sit. It doesn’t do me much good. Occasionally I can rent it out for a renaissance faire or something. Years later, someone comes along and wants to build a soccer stadium (or a bank, or a restaurant) on it. I’m supposed to just give it to them “for the good of the order” or something?

    It’s unfortunate that it’s come to this in the case of Tampa Bay – you’ll be able to cheer for the Rowdies, you’ll be able to sing the song, you’ll be able to be a fan and see the green-and-gold hoop socks (hopefully). But you won’t be able to buy anything from the club that says “Tampa Bay Rowdies” on it. That’s why we have courts to figure out stuff like this. Hopefully they’ll figure it out.

    But you might just as well say that Brian Dunseth has “no business” making and selling t-shirts with the LA Aztecs, Detroit Express and Miami Gatos logos on them. Of course he does. However he managed to get the rights to do that, fair play to him. My only problem with that whole thing is charging $36 for a freaking t-shirt. Marissa Miller better be wearing it – and nothing else – when it gets to my house for $36.

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