"Flying B" Dispute Sent Back to District Court

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    The NFL season hasn’t even started yet, but the Baltimore Ravens might have already suffered a major loss – in the courtroom.

    A federal appeals court revived part of an artist’s mission to win compensation for the team’s original logo.

    Frederick Bouchat’s drawing was the basis for the “Flying B” logo the Ravens’ used from 1996 through 1998. A jury ruled in 1998 that the team stole the logo idea from Bouchat, who’s a security guard in Baltimore. However, the jury didn’t award him any damages.

    That didn’t stop Bouchat.

    He later sued, arguing a highlight film that used to play on the stadium video screen before Ravens home games showed the logo on players’ helmets. The “Flying B” also appeared in films the NFL sells for $50 each.

    The Ravens claim the logo is historical and is “fair use” under copyright law. Senior U.S. District Judge Marvin J. Garbis agreed, but an appeals court rejected part of that argument.

    “Simply filming football games that include the copyrighted logo does not transform the purpose behind the logo’s use into a historical one,” Judge M. Blane Michael wrote in a majority opinion.

    The court did rule that the Ravens can continue to use the logo in a team history display in the lobby of their headquarters because it is essentially part of a museum exhibit, which is permissible under copyright law.

    The case now heads back to Judge Garbis, who can decide whether to issue an injunction. If that happens, the Ravens and the NFL will have to negotiate a licensing agreement with Bouchat if they want to keep using the logo.