I never thought I'd write about lawsuits on this site but our buddies at Lake Erie College have taken "frivolous" to a new level, and I feel compelled to comment. Now, I expect halfwits, nitwits, and dip-(I can't say that here) to file claims just trying to make a quick buck or garner some attention, but a university is supposed to be more ethical. In this case, they're as credible as the woman asking for a bazillion dollars after spilling hot coffee on her lap.
If you're not up to speed, here are the details from The News-Herald, which covers Northern Ohio:
Lake Erie College seeks to stop company from using trade name 'Erie Storm'
Lake Erie College is going to court to protect the trade name of its athletic teams. College attorney Robert McBride of Canton has asked a judge to force McKean, Pa.-based Erie Professional Football Inc. to stop using the trade name "Erie Storm." According to the complaint filed Tuesday in Lake County Common Pleas Court:
* Since 1988, Lake Erie College athletic teams have competed under the name, "Lake Erie Storm." Clothes and other merchandise with that name are sold.
* Lake Erie's NCAA Division II teams have competed in and around Erie, Pa., as the Lake Erie Storm against Pennsylvania schools including Edinboro University, Gannon University and Mercyhurst College.
* Lake Erie was the first to use the trade name or anything similar in association with athletics, including football.
"... The trade name Lake Erie Storm has not only become widely known, but has also acquired a reputation for excellence," McBride stated in the complaint.
Stop there. Re-read that quote. Now read it out loud with a straight face. I'm not sure which is a wilder claim -- "widely known" or "reputation for excellence." Ask the next 10 people you bump into what Lake Erie College's nickname is, and they'll probably respond, "There's a Lake Erie College?" And then ask what Lake Erie College has an reputation for excellence in. Danged if I know.
Hold onto your hat; here's some more legal mumbo jumbo from the The News-Herald: "By the use of the trade name Erie Storm and the domain name www.stormerie.com, (the) defendant is misleading the public into believing that (Erie Professional Football) is associated with (Lake Erie College)," according to the complaint. On Jan. 22, Lake Erie asked the group in writing to stop using the name. However, it continues to market itself as Erie Storm, which has damaged the college's profits from merchandise sales, McBride said. College officials have also asked Judge Vincent A. Culotta to order Erie Professional Football to pay its legal fees and turn over all profits from merchandise sold under the Erie Storm name to Lake Erie.
Gimme a break! (There's your John Stossel reference.) What's next? When Tom DiVecchio says were going to have a Lake Erie storm, is he going to be served papers live on the air? I used to coach an AAU team called the Erie Red Storm. Every time I wear the T-shirt, do I need to send 50 cents to Griz Zimmerman?
All joking aside, this lawsuit could put the Erie Storm out of business because margins in minor league professional sports are slim. At the very least it will cost the team thousands of dollars either in legal fees or rebranding the club. Shame on Lake Erie College for yelling "fire" when there isn't any smoke there and harming a local small business. I'd like to see the data that led them to claim their profitable merchandise business has been damaged. More importantly, I wonder how the school would defend this baseless lawsuit in their business ethics class.
When the Storm blows into the Hammermill Center next season -- am I legally allowed to say that? -- I hope the Knights wear Erie Storm T-shirts for warm ups and then promptly send LEC back to Painsville with a resounding loss.