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.
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.”
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.