Apparently, Goodwill, like Love and like Diamonds, is Forever

On February 28, 2022, The Real USFL, LLC sued Fox Sports in the Central District of California [2:22-cv-1350] for attempting to resurrect the United States Football League (USFL) — a football league that played for three seasons, 1983 through 1985. The league folded before its planned 1986 season, and all tolled had lost over US$163 million in its short life.

The plaintiff is not the original league, but an entity formed six days earlier, on February 22, 2022, but claims to be the holder of “all rights and interest” in the leagues’ trademarks. In its complaint, the plaintiff alleges the defendant Fox Sports has “no right to capitalize on the goodwill of the league.”

Plaintiff alleges that this goodwill was preserved, by among other things, organizing
league and team reunions, and authorizing and appearing in and ESPN 30 for 30
documentary; and entering into certain media licensing arrangements on behalf of the USFL for apparel, books, and other media.

Plaintiff raises claim of trademark infringement, false advertising, false association, unfair competition, and cancellation of trademarks, Plaintiff seems most concerned by Fox’s characterization of its efforts as a “reboot” of the defunct league, when Fox has no direct connection with the original league. However, it is not clear that a reboot excludes such a situation, and is it even more unclear that the old USFL has any rights left to complain. It should be an interesting case. If nothing else we will learn what it takes to maintain rights in a trademark, and what constitutes abandonment.