Cowboy court

Who owns America's Team?

On October 16, the Dallas Cowboys and NFL Properties filed a federal suit in the Northern District of Texas against a Lakeville, Minnesota-based company calling itself America's Team Properties. C'mon, take one guess what the suit's about. Just one. Yup: trademark infringement.

But it's more than just your regular infringement suit; there's more here than just some upstart company trying to rip off the well-established nickname of Your Dallas Cowboys, who branded themselves with the familiar moniker in 1979 when naming the 1978 season highlight reel, uh, America's Team. In fact, from the looks of the court documents this battle between the Cowboys, who never formally trademarked the nickname, and America's Team Properties Inc. has been going on for some 16 years.

During that time, the Minnesota company obtained a federal trademark for the name, tried to auction off the name (to the Cowboys, even) and threatened to file its own suit against the Cowboys should Jerry Jones keep using the name. The Cowboys' suit is a pre-emptive strike—and one giant screw-you.

What prompted the suit is the company's Web site, http://americasteamusa.com, which looks like something with which the Cowboys might be affiliated. Either that, or the company's founder, president and CEO Bryan S. Reichel, picked a silver, blue and white color scheme completely by accident.

That's doubtful, say the Cowboys: "Defendant's continued use of AMERICA'S TEAM trademark is likely to cause consumer confusion or to deceive consumers into thinking that Defendant is authorized, affiliated, sponsored or otherwise associated with the Dallas Cowboys and/or NFLP, is likely to diminish and blur and/or tarnish the meaning of AMERICA'S TEAM, thereby diluting its distinctive quality," says the lawsuit. The Cowboys want Reichel to stop using the name—and to leave the Cowboys the hell alone.

Reichel didn't even know of the lawsuit till the Dallas Observer contacted him last week. "I appreciate you telling me," he said. "Are you always the bearer of bad news?"

Sure. Sometimes.

"I don't know why they sued now," he says. "It's hard for me to say. It's a fair question. I can't judge it. They've known about the ownership forever. I would think they'd be more interested in polishing the moniker 'Dallas Cowboys' rather than being 'America's Team,' which is something, in my opinion, they're not."

Meanwhile, Buzz would like to be known as "Tony Romo." Till Sunday, anyway.

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