Judge Rules in Favor of Pittsburgh Steelers in ‘Terrible’ Trademark Dispute

By Joseph Mandour on December 6, 2011

Trademark Infringement California – Today in federal trademark court, U.S. District Judge Arthur Schwab ruled in favor of the Pittsburgh Steelers LLC and a foundation for disabled students in a trademark infringement dispute with a T-shirt retailer.

In addition to trademark infringement, the complaint, filed in August, also accused Eugene Berry Enterprises LLC of unfair competition, fraud, and other offenses. Eugene Berry, owner of Eugene Berry Enterprises, infringed on the ‘Terrible’ trademark by selling black and gold T-shirts bearing the phrase, “The Terrible T-Shirt, A Pittsburgh Original.”

The judge ruled that the Pittsburgh Steelers LLC and the Allegheny Valley School Foundation have exclusive rights to the ‘Terrible’ trademark. Judge Schwab permanently banned Berry from producing and selling the T-shirts or any products bearing the ‘Terrible’ trademark. According to court documents, Berry had been selling the T-shirts since February and continued to do so after the Allegheny Valley School Foundation had asked him to stop.

In its complaint, the Allegheny Valley School Foundation had asked for damages including profits from the sale of the T-shirts, attorneys’ fees, and other expenses. No information was immediately made available as to whether damages were awarded to the plaintiff.

The Allegheny Valley School Foundation, which benefits directly from sales of merchandise with the ‘Terrible’ trademark, is a charitable corporation that provides valuable services for about 900 Pennsylvanians with intellectual or developmental disabilities. The late sportscaster Myron Cope (1929-2008), known for being the “voice of the Pittsburgh Steelers,” created the Terrible-Towel in the mid-1970’s. In 1996, he donated the ‘Terrible’ trademark to the Allegheny Valley School, where his autistic son lived. The Pittsburgh Steelers continue to have an exclusive license to market Terrible-Towel items.

Neither party could be immediately reached for comment on the judge’s decision.

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