NCAA Fails to Appear for Trademark Trial, Files New Suit Entirely

On March 4, 2018, two owners of Southern California Ford dealerships filed for dismissal or staying of a trademark infringement suit initiated by the NCAA, while the parties await decision on the same issue from the Trademark Trial and Appeals Board (TTAB). The NCAA initiated a suit in response to the dealerships’ uses of “Markdown Madness,” claiming the slogan could easily be confused with the NCAA’s “March Madness.” Dealership owners and defendants, Ken Grody Management, Inc. and Dixon Ford, Inc., had already been defending the dispute against the NCAA with the TTAB for almost three years before the NCAA decided to take alternative action.

The NCAA filed a formal suit on January 26, 2018, which came just two days before it missed its deadline to submit a trial brief for the pending proceeding with the TTAB. When the NCAA did not appear at trial, the TTAB determined that the organization’s “failure to take testimony or submit evidence . . . was wholly within its control and establishes that its neglect of this proceeding is not excusable.”

The dealerships’ motion seeking dismissal or staying asks the court to give at least temporary deference to the TTAB proceeding, which has long been underway and which should soon be decided. Specifically, the motion alleged that the NCAA’s conduct is a “violation of judicial efficiency and seeks to usurp a TTAB proceeding that is already through trial and in closing arguments.” The dealerships claim that the suit is not only a judicial impediment, but also an “end-run in a second forum of improper venue given the late stage of the first proceedings.” Closing briefs will be complete by March 16, 2018 and the TTAB is expected to issue a decision within three months of the close of proceedings.

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