Bullish behavior: Owners of hockey teams face off about logos

Posted Monday, Oct. 28, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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Owners of the Texas Brahmas and the Central Hockey League are suing an amateur team that they say is horning in on their logo, an important element of branding and marketing the team.

The federal trademark infringement suit was filed last week in the Northern District of Texas. The suit also names the NYTEX Sports and the North American Hockey League.

The suit alleges that the Lone Star Brahmas, an amateur team where youth prepare for professional or college hockey, knowingly began using the team’s “marks,” including a logo depicting a stylized bull with a hockey stick over the word Brahmas. The suit also describes another logo showing a stylized bull with the T in Texas in the shape of a bull’s horns.

The Texas Brahmas are not playing this season, but the owners say there are plans to revive the team for the 2014 or 2015 season when they find a suitable place to play in Tarrant County.

“We are vigorously defending our trademarks along with the Central Hockey League in this market,” said Mike Barack, president of the Texas Brahmas franchise.

But Frank Trazzera, president of the NYTEX Sports Center, and owner of the Lone Star Brahmas, called the lawsuit “frivolous.”

Trazzera, who also is part owner of the Texas Brahmas, said the version of the bull used by his amateur team is gray and not purple. He added that it is “ridiculous to sue over a bull.”

In fact, the amateur team’s slogan is “It’s not the same old bull.”

Trazzera said the suit is an attempt by the Texas Brahmas to take money from a team that helps young hockey players advance to professional or college teams.

“It’s kind of sad. At the end of the day, you are saying take these jerseys off of the kids,”

Trazerra said that the North American Hockey League as one of the most successful amateur leagues and that his team is preparing young people ages 20 and under for professional venues.

Trazzera said he and his brother Salvatore have had a lifelong involvement in the sport.

Proprietary information

Barack said he would not respond to any comments from the Lone Star Brahmas.

David Pels, an attorney representing the Texas Brahmas said: “The facts are pretty well spelled out in the lawsuit and that the Texas Brahmas and Central Hockey League are jointly pursuing the litigation to protect its marks.”

The suit describes how in July, the Texas Brahmas and the Central Hockey League, ordered the Trazzeras to stop using the logo and all other trademarks to promote the junior hockey team.

The suit also alleges that confidential and proprietary information remain on a server and on several laptop computers owned and controlled by NYTEX sports.

The suit accuses the Lone Star Brahmas of promoting and advertising its goods and services in Tarrant County using the stylized logo belonging to the Texas Brahmas and of using the Brahmas’ registered marks on various websites, Twitter and Facebook pages.

“Multiple demands have been made upon Defendants to cease and desist from using the Brahmas’ Marks and/or confusingly similar marks in any manner,” the lawsuit stated.

The Texas Brahmas are seeking damages from $3,000 to $300,000 for registration and use of the domain names lonestarbrahmas.com, brahmaland.com and jrbrahmas.com. The plaintiffs are also seeking attorneys’ fees.

According to the lawsuit, in 2001, the professional team gave permission to amateur hockey associations to use the logo and other materials in connection with the Junior Brahmas’ programs.

The agreement for the amateur teams to use the logo continued when the professional team moved to the NYTEX Sports Center in North Richland Hills in 2007. At that time, Frank and Salvatore Trazzera managed and had an ownership stake in the pro team.

The Texas Brahmas continued playing at NYTEX, and won the Central Hockey League championship in 2009.

Team asks for a new arena

Different owners — Mike Atkinson and Michael Levitz — then bought the team in 2012 and renamed it the Fort Worth Brahmas. That team played most of its games at NYTEX but also played two of four scheduled games at the Fort Worth Convention Center.

Former owners Atkinson and Levitz still owe Fort Worth $5,000 for two canceled games at the convention center and owe a food and beverage vendor at the center $3,230.

“We would like to be able to collect that at some point,” said Kirk Slaughter, Fort Worth’s public events director. He said that the city and the vendor still haven’t gotten paid.

Trazzera said Atkinson and Levitz also owe NYTEX more than $80,000 in rent and added that several employees have not gotten paid.

Several vendors that do business with NYTEX also haven’t received money they are owed, but Trazzera did not say how much Atkinson and Levitz owe those companies.

Ownership reverted to Stuart Fraser earlier this year when the team defaulted on the money it owed. The Texas Brahmas say they are not responsible for those debts.

The Texas Brahmas team has asked Fort Worth to build an arena, but the city has said there are no plans for doing that.

There is interest in building a new arena at Will Rogers Memorial Center, but Fort Worth isn’t considering building it for 4 or 5 years and even then that facility would be used for horse shows and other events and for hockey when it is available, Slaughter said.

Elizabeth Campbell, 817-390-7696 Twitter: @fwstliz

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