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In the beginning, amateur artist and security guard Frederick Bouchat of Baltimore was only looking for an autographed helmet and a thank-you note when he drew a team logo in 1995 for the Baltimore Ravens. That logo bears “a remarkable resemblance” to the logo used by the NFL team from 1996 to 1999, or so stated an Oct. 17 decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit. When he didn’t get the helmet or the thank-you note, the lawsuits started piling up. Last week, the 4th Circuit denied any damages against hundreds of Ravens merchandise licensees in four consolidated copyright infringement suits filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland. The 4th Circuit affirmed that Bouchat had filed the copyright for his logo too late, a month after the Ravens presented its very similar logo to the public. Bouchat also was precluded from receiving damages because a jury in an earlier suit against the Ravens and National Football League Properties had declined to award him damages, though it did find his logo copyright had been infringed. In his concurring opinion, 4th Circuit Judge Paul Niemeyer used the licensee suits as a springboard to roundly criticize the Copyright Act. The act, he wrote, “seems to encourage claim splitting and manipulation of the litigation process.” He added that these issues “will arise with increasing frequency,” and “Congress should reconsider them soon to define a more workable balance.” Howard Schulman of Schulman & Kaufman in Baltimore represented Bouchat. Marc Ackerman, a partner at White & Case in New York, repped the licensees.
Brendan Smith can be contacted at [email protected].

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