‘Fight Sports’ Trademark KO’d as Serbagi Duo Lands Counterpunch
By Todd Cunningham
Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Robinson and Archie Moore are among the names that always make the list when boxing fans recall the best counterpunchers their sport has ever seen.
But New York City attorneys Christopher Serbagi and Lawrence Silverman might rate consideration after scoring a victory for Anthem Media Group Inc. and Fight Media Inc. The companies, both Canadian, are behind the cable TV channel Fight Network in a trademark dispute with CSI Entertainment, which was seeking to protect its trademarks Fight Sports and Fight Sports Network.
The channel, which recently landed carriage on the Cablevision cable network to launch a push in the United States, was the target of a motion for a preliminary injunction led in the Eastern District of New York on behalf of CSI by Zachary Kozak and Mark Frey of Frey & Kozak. Darren Saunders of Wilson Keadjian Browndorf joined the team late in the bout to help with objections to Magistrate Judge Ramon Reyes’ report.
Not only did the duo from Serbagi Law Firm in Manhattan land enough legal blows to see their opponent’s motion for an injunction punched out in a decision written by Reyes last December and confirmed by Eastern district Judge Ann Donnelly. On top of that, the judges KO’d CSI’s trademark on the names Fight Sports and Fight Sports Network, which they ruled were generic terms.
“We knew from our research hearing that ‘Fight Sports’ was a generic phrase used by both industry insiders and the media,” Serbagi said. Momentum in the case may have shifted when Jon Franklin, CEO of Glory Kickboxing and a witness for the plaintiffs, admitted the terms “ fight sports” and “combat sports” were synonymous under cross-examination by Serbagi. Similar declarations by veteran fight sports program distributor Doug Jacobs and journalist/author Jim Genia, both called as expert witnesses by CSI, and CSI co-CEO Richard Miele, cemented its status.
Serbagi and Silverman got some help. Reyes found in his ruling that CSI’s efforts to support its contentions of customer confusion and irreparable harm were lacking.
CSI’s case was also hurt by the fact that back in 2007, when its lawyers sent a cease-and-desist letter on using the term Fight Network in Canada, anthem and Fight Media wrote back that “unless I hear from you to the contrary, FN will consider this matter settled to CSI’s satisfaction.” When CSI did not respond to their letter, anthem and Fight Media kept growing CSI entertainment Fight sports TV website and investing, leading to their push into the United States a decade later.
The seeking of an injunction by CSI, which in hindsight now appears to be an overreach, reminded Serbagi of a case involving Marilyn Monroe that he had been involved in roughly a decade ago.
His client Sam Shaw, the photographer who took the iconic shot of the actress with her skirt billowing above an air grate, was sued by Monroe’s estate.
“That estate was making something like $10 million a year and the Shaws were making a couple hundred thousand,” Serbagi recalled. “But they sued us and ultimately wound up losing big when the right to publicity was found to end at death.”
Contact Todd Cunningham at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @tcnnnghm