Heisman Trophy Trust Sues HeismanWatch.com
On Wednesday, October 3rd 2018, the Heisman Trophy Trust, the organization behind the famed Heisman Trophy, filed a trademark claim against HeismanWatch.com, a website that tracks the competition for the award. The trust submitted their compliant to New York federal court, positing that the website has used the Heisman trademarks without their consent or permission to capitalize on its fame.
The website HeismanWatch.com has been managed by owners Chase Leavitt, Joseph Middleton, and Kimball Dean since 2014, and has podcasts and social media accounts in conjunction to its reporting. The site tracks college football quarterbacks and running backs, one of whom will win the famed award each year. The Heisman Trust asserts that the owners’ use of its trademarks misleads consumers to believe that the website is affiliated with the trust, and is requesting a domain change from the site.
The trust’s suit against HeismanWatch.com seems to follow in the footsteps of the trademark claim against OscarWatch.com, filed in 2007 by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The 2007 was successful for plaintiffs, and the website was forced to change its name to Awards Daily.
Notably, however, the trust’s claim isn’t merely contained to the use of the trademark “Heisman,” but also asserts that the website cannot even use pictures of the trophy itself. The trust argues that the statuette, as original sculptural work, is entitled to copyright protection.
The defendants, who have yet to respond to the allegations, will likely submit a fair use defense, contending that permission from the copyright holder was not necessary, with the website merely reporting on the competition process.