Saturday, August 14, 2004

Two groups battle as Ky. Colonels

By Bruce Schreiner
The Associated Press

LOUISVILLE - A trademark dispute pitting two Kentucky Colonels - a history-rich charitable group and a new minor-league basketball team - went before a federal judge Friday.

The charitable group sought a temporary order blocking the team from selling shirts and caps emblazoned with "Kentucky Colonels."

The group, formally known as the Honorable Order of Kentucky Colonels, claims in a lawsuit that the basketball Colonels committed trademark violations by branding the name on the merchandise.

The Honorable Order obtained a federal trademark last February for use of "Kentucky Colonels" on shirts, caps and other merchandise.

After meeting with lawyers for 90 minutes in his chambers, U.S. District Judge John Heyburn II indicated he would maintain the status quo, attorneys on both sides said. The judge did not immediately enter a written order.

Attorneys said the team will be able to keep selling shirts and caps on its Web site, but is temporarily blocked from expanding its line of Colonels merchandise or selling the items elsewhere.

"We won partial relief, and we're very pleased with that," said Steven Snyder, an attorney for the Honorable Order, which has contributed to groups in need across Kentucky since the 1930s.

Heyburn set an Aug. 30 hearing on the order's request for a preliminary injunction to block sales of the team's shirts and caps.

The suit does not ask that the team change its name.

Team owner Stephanie Roach said the sales have been "minimal."

Following the hearing Friday, Snyder took his own shot at the team's meager sales.

"It seems to me that most of the world is not eager to jump on their small bandwagon," he said. "But nonetheless, they still pose a threat to us because they are using our registered mark."

The team's attorney, Michelle Kaiser Bray of Indianapolis, said "there is no conceivable possibility" of confusing the nonprofit, charitable Colonels with the basketball team.

Season ticket sales start next week for the upcoming season.

The order's lawsuit, filed Thursday, asks that all the disputed merchandise be destroyed. It also seeks unspecified actual damages, all the team's profits from the merchandise sales, and court costs.

The team owner said she wasn't discouraged by the legal fight, and she said was committed to keeping the Colonels name.

"We're here to stay," Roach said. "We're here for the long run."

The team will play in the American Basketball Association. A generation earlier, a now-defunct team by the same name played in the original ABA, then a rival of the National Basketball Association.

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