Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Chicago Cubs go after clubs watching Wrigley Field home games from nearby rooftops

On February 15, 2008, Chicago National League Ball Club, L.L.C., the owner of the Chicago Cubs Major League Baseball team (the “Cubs”), filed a trademark infringement lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois against Thomas Gramatis as well as two companies owned and controlled by Gramatis -- Wrigley Rooftops III, L.L.C., d/b/a the Wrigley Field Rooftop Club (“Wrigley Field Rooftop Club”) and Rooftops IV, L.L.C., d/b/a the Sheffield Baseball Club (“Sheffield Baseball Club”). See Chicago National League Ball Club, L.L.C. v. Wrigley Rooftops III, L.L.C. et al, Case No. 08-cv-00968 (N.D. Ill.). A copy of the complaint can be downloaded here (HT to Marty Schwimmer’s Trademark Blog).

The Cubs also own and operate Wrigley Field, the second oldest Major League Baseball ballpark in the United States (Boston’s Fenway Park is the oldest), where the Chicago Cubs baseball team play all of its home games.

The Wrigley Field Marquee

The complaint notes that the Cubs, through years of investing substantial sums of money both in advertising and promotion as well as the baseball team itself, have built up substantial consumer recognition and goodwill with respect to its numerous trademarks relating to the “Cubs” and “Wrigley Field” including:

Both clubs are in the business of selling to the public rooftop seats which allow patrons to watch Cubs games played at Wrigley Field because of the close proximity of Wrigley Field to the building rooftops where the clubs operate (the Wrigley Field Rooftop Club operates at 3617 N. Sheffield Avenue and the Sheffield Baseball Club operates at 3619 N. Sheffield Avenue). Gramtis supposedly charges as much as $150 or more per person for admission to his rooftops.

Aerial Photo of Wrigley Field showing building rooftops in the distance.

(Photo Credit: Aerial Views)

Gramtis, through another company Annex Club, L.L.C. (“Annex”), also operates another rooftop club named the Ivy League Baseball Club from a facility that is adjacent to Wrigley Field. In 2004, the Cubs and Annex entered into a license agreement allowing Annex to operate the Ivy League Baseball Club and use the Cubs’ trademarks in exchange for an annual royalty payment. The Cubs have entered into similar licensing arrangements with 12 other rooftop operators.

According to the complaint, when Gramatis began operating the Sheffield Baseball Club in 2007, the Cubs attempted to enter into a similar agreement with Gramatis, but such agreement was never finalized. In late 2007, Gramatis apparently announced plans to operate the Wrigley Field Rooftop Club during the 2008 season. This month, the Cubs reiterated its offer to Gramatis regarding the Sheffield Baseball Club and also attempted to enter into the aforementioned license agreement with the Wrigley Field Rooftop Club, but Gramatis allegedly refused both.

The Cubs maintain that Gramatis is marketing his clubs using the Cubs trademarks, including the Chicago Cubs name, the Wrigley Field name, and other marks associated with the Cubs, on each clubs’ respective website (http://wrigleyfieldrooftops.com/ and http://sheffieldbaseballclub.com/). The Cubs also assert that Gramatis has advertised his clubs as being “Officially Endorsed by the Chicago Cubs.”

The Cubs’ single count (citing 15 U.S.C. §§ 1114, 1116(d) and 1125) argues that Gramatis’ marketing efforts are willful and wanton actions designed to trade off of the Cubs trademarks and goodwill and which are likely to cause confusion as to the affiliation, association or connection between Gramatis’ clubs and the Cubs and as to the sponsorship or approval of Gramatis’ business activities by the Cubs and adversely affect Cubs’ ticket sales as well as the ticket sales of the Cubs’ rooftop licensees.

The Cubs are asking for injunctive relief to stop Gramatis from using the Cubs’ trademarks and engaging in any marketing which is likely to cause consumer confusion regarding affiliation with or sponsorship or approval by the Cubs of Gramatis’ business. The Cubs also seek compensatory damages, Gramatis’ profits, treble damages, statutory damages under 15 U.S.C. § 1117(c) (for alleged counterfeiting), interest, costs and attorneys’ fees.

The Cubs have also apparently informed Gramatis that it intends on taking action to prevent him from providing his club members “with any guarantee that they will have an unobstructed view of home plate and other parts of Wrigley Field in 2008.”

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