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NFL sues Coors, Players Inc.
Posted: Friday June 25, 1999 10:24 PM
NEW YORK (AP) -- The NFL sued the Coors Brewing Co. on Friday, saying the company's effort to promote Coors Light as the "Official Beer of NFL players" falls flat legally.
"That claim is both literally false and a violation of the NFL's exclusive trademark rights," the NFL said in a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan that also named Players Inc., a marketing company for players, as a defendant.
Colleen Gaskill, a spokeswoman for the brewing company headquartered in Golden, Colo., said the nation's third largest beer manufacturer was not ready to comment because its officials had not yet seen the lawsuit.
The league said long-standing NFL rules prevent players from endorsing alcoholic beverages, including products such as Coors Light. But, the lawsuit said, it is fine for the league's 31 clubs to endorse the lucrative market of alcoholic beverages through its marketing arm, NFL Properties.
The lawsuit said Coors claimed to have obtained authorization for the promotion from Players Inc., a Washington-based marketing company representing many -- but not all -- players. A message left with Players Inc. was not immediately returned Friday.
That marketing agreement does not include many of the most popular quarterbacks, including Troy Aikman, Drew Bledsoe, Randall Cunningham, Brett Favre, Doug Flutie, Dan Marino, Steve Young and Vinny Testaverde, who belong to a separate player-owned marketing program known as the NFL Quarterback Club, the lawsuit said.
"Nor does the Coors promotion disclose that some players, for religious or other personal reasons, do not even drink beer," the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit sought unspecified damages as well as a recall of any products infringing on the NFL's trademarks.
The lawsuit said Coors' primary competitors, the Miller Brewing Co. and Anheuser-Busch Cos. have sponsorship agreements with the NFL through NFL Properties, permitting them to affiliate their products with the league.
It said Coors' "blatantly unauthorized commercial use irreparably and irretrievably damages its exclusive economic value."
The lawsuit accused Coors of planning to promote Coors Light as the "Official Beer of NFL Players" by putting the slogan on signs, posters and inflatable footballs passed out at the end of NFL games this fall.This is not the first time Coors has violated the NFL trademark, the lawsuit claimed. It said the company has also tread on the league's Super Bowl trademarks in the past.
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