Rutgers Goes on the Defensive in Trademark Infringement Suit

A New Jersey apparel company, Anger Sports, sued Rutgers University and an assistant head coach of Rutgers’ football team for trademark infringement earlier this month. Anger Sports, which owns the wordmark “Rare Breed Athletics,” registered its logos in May 2016. The company is alleging that the Scarlet Knights’ assistant head coach, A.J. Blazek, posted images on social media in February 2017 of a logo, confusingly similar to the Anger Sports logo, which is meant to represent the offensive line of Rutgers’ football team. The twitter posts also used hashtags that Anger Sports alleges infringes on its wordmark. Rutgers and Blazek had represented that they would stop using the marks, but in September, Rutgers and Blazek allegedly created and starting using a second confusingly similar image.

Rutgers football’s position groups go by nicknames chosen by the players. Last season, the offensive line called itself “Soul Train.” This season, the players decided on “Rare Breed.” Anger Sports’ mark consists of the words “Rare Breed” in all caps, with the ‘B’ and ‘D’ stylized to look like fangs. The first logo Blazek posted consists of the words “RaRe bReed” — with the R’s capitalized because of the capital ‘R’ that is Rutgers’ logo — above fangs. Rutgers and Blazek purportedly continued to use the logos despite Anger Sports’ cease-and-desist letters.

The complaint alleges that Rutgers and Blazek “have openly and defiantly co-opted Rare Breed’s brand in furtherance of their efforts to recruit into and coach student-athletes in the Rutgers Scarlet Knights football program.” Anger Sports moved for a preliminary injunction on Thursday, October 27, arguing before a New Jersey federal court that it could lose important potential partnerships if Rutgers and Blazek are not forced to stop using the “virtually identical” logos, as Anger Sports is currently presenting to and negotiating with well-known apparel companies. Rare Breed apparel is worn by several current and former NFL players, such as Adrian Peterson. John Ciuciu, the founder of Anger Sports, and a former Scarlet Knights fullback, wants Rutgers and Blazek to stop using not just the logo but “Rare Breed” altogether, and provide accounting of all revenue generated from its use.

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