Steelers Drop “Terrible Towel” Trademark Suit

By Joseph Mandour on September 7, 2012

football-field-lambeau-thumb-200x150-47390Orange County – The Pittsburgh Steelers have put to rest a trademark infringement suit against a man making knockoffs of the team’s “Terrible Towel” merchandise.

The Steelers and Nicholas Rossi agreed to an “amicable resolution” for the matter at a preliminary injunction hearing on Friday, Judge Arthur J. Schwab said in an order closing the case Monday.

The Steelers and the AVS Foundation, a charitable nonprofit supporting the Allegheny Valley School for intellectually and developmentally disabled individuals, sued Rossi earlier in August. AVS owns the Steelers’ Terrible Towel trademarks, and the sales of trademarked merchandise supports the school’s operation.

The marks have become widely recognized by and famous among the general public due to more than 35 years of use in connection with the Pittsburgh Steelers football team; their visibility to fans viewing Pittsburgh Steelers football games in person or on television, in Pittsburgh and other cities; media articles about “The Terrible Towel®”; their distribution through numerous channels of commerce, and the stature of Pittsburgh sports writer and Steelers broadcaster, Myron Cope, who had the idea of “The Terrible Towel®”, the complaint says.

The Steelers hold an exclusive license to market items bearing “The Terrible Towel®” marks, according to the complaint.

Rossi and his businesses were allegedly selling an Italian language knockoff of the Terrible Towel, marketing it as “Italy’s official” Terrible Towel, via the website of Hockey Sandwich Sporting Goods of Long Beach, California, as well as eBay. The sales were unaffected by the receipt of the Steelers’ cease and desist letters, the complaint says.

The Steelers asserted claims for trademark infringement, unfair competition, dilution, and Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act violations.

The establishment of the Terrible Towel as a Steelers icon was brought about by the efforts of former radio broadcaster Myron Cope during the 1975 playoffs, in which the Steelers went on to win Super Bowl X against the Dallas Cowboys.

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