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Eli Barrolle et al. v. the Liberian Sports Association of Pennsylvania et al.

July 22, 2011

ELI BARROLLE ET AL.
v.
THE LIBERIAN SPORTS ASSOCIATION OF PENNSYLVANIA ET AL.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Surrick, J.

MEMORANDUM

Presently before the Court is Plaintiffs' Motion for Preliminary Injunction and Restraining Order. (ECF No. 2.) For the following reasons, the Motion will be denied.

I. BACKGROUND

On July 18, 2011, Plaintiffs contemporaneously filed a Complaint and Motion for Preliminary Injunction and Restraining Order. At the request of counsel, we held a hearing on July 21, 2011. The following evidence and testimony was presented.

Plaintiff Eli Barrolle is the holder of a United States trademark for "Barrolle Sports Association," which was registered on August 23, 2005. (Compl. Ex. A, ECF No. 1.) Plaintiff Union of Invincible Eleven & Majestic Sports Association is the holder of a United States trademark for "Invincible Eleven," registered on May 23, 2006. (Id. Ex. D.) Barrolle Sports Association sponsors a sporting event each year to commemorate Liberia's independence day. This year it has scheduled a soccer game between Mighty Barrolle and Invincible Eleven for July 23, 2011, at Bensalem High School. (Id. Ex. B.)

Defendants Liberian Sports Association of Pennsylvania, Mighty Barrolle Sports Association of Trenton, Trenton Professional Old Timer Association, Herbert Cooper, D. Zeogar Wilson, Sandra Barrolle, Kula Blidi, and John Moore are also hosting a soccer game to commemorate Liberia's independence day. The game is between teams with the names Mighty Barrolle and Invincible Eleven and it is scheduled for July 23, 2011, at Olney High School, which is approximately ten miles away from Bensalem High School. (Id. Ex. E.) Plaintiffs allege that Defendants are infringing their common-law trademarks and federally-registered trademarks in violation of the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1051 et seq. Plaintiffs seek to enjoin Defendants' soccer game.

At the hearing on July 21, 2011, the Court heard testimony from Emmett Trinity, co-chairman of the Union of Invincible Eleven; Eli Barrolle, president of Barrolle Sports Association; Herbert Cooper, chairman of the Liberian Sports Association of Pennsylvania; and

D. Zeogar Wilson, former president of the Mighty Barrolle Sports Association of Trenton. (See Hr'g Tr.)

Testifying on behalf of Plaintiffs, Trinity indicated that the Union of Invincible Eleven was conceived in 1996 and its constitution and bylaws were promulgated thereafter. (Hr'g Tr. 5-7 & Ex. P-1.) Trinity described the fierce and passionate rivalry between the Mighty Barrolle and Invincible Eleven. He advised that Plaintiffs have used flyers, the internet, listserves, and radio to advertise the game. Plaintiffs expect to incur more than 5,000 dollars in game-related expenses. (Id. at 8.) Tickets for admission are ten dollars. Trinity predicts that there will be between 6,000 and 7,000 people in attendance if the game at Olney High School is canceled, and between 3,000 and 4,000 if it is not. (Id. at 13.) In addition to diverting fans, Trinity testified that the game at Olney will confuse the public, harm the integrity of the game, and dilute the value of Plaintiffs' independence day festivities.

Barrolle testified that Mighty Barrolle was founded in Liberia in 1954 and was named after his father. He maintained that since 1982, the Barrolle Sports Association has used various names in America, including Mighty Barrolle and Union of Mighty Barrolle. (Id. at 19.) There are currently six chapters of the Association. Barrolle testified that the Mighty Barrolle and Invincible Eleven have played soccer games from at least 2000 through 2010. (Id. at 28-29.) He advised that the individuals listed as Defendants used to be members of his organization, but left and formed a new entity in 2007.

The games in 2009 and 2010 were the subject of similar litigation. On July 22, 2009, Union of Invincible Eleven (Plaintiffs herein) filed a complaint and motion for preliminary injunction in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey, which sought to prevent Mighty Barrolle Invincible Eleven Sports Association of Liberians in North Jersey from hosting an independence day soccer game on July 25, 2009. See Union of Invincible Eleven & Majestic Sports Ass'n, Inc. v. Mighty Barrolle Invincible Eleven Sports Ass'n of Liberians in N.J., Inc., No. 09-3603 (D.N.J. July 22, 2009). On July 24, 2009, Judge Greenaway granted the plaintiffs' request for a temporary restraining order and enjoined defendants from playing their soccer game on July 25, 2009. On July 22, 2010, Plaintiffs herein filed another complaint and motion for temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey seeking to prevent Defendants from hosting an independence day soccer game between Mighty Barrolle and Invincible Eleven on July 24, 2010. See Barrolle Sports Ass'n v. Barrolle Sports Ass'n, Trenton Chapter, No. 10-3682 (D.N.J. July 22, 2010). Judge Pisano refused to grant the requested relief and the motion was denied.

Barrolle testified at our July 21, 2011 hearing that although his motion was denied in 2010, the judge ordered the parties to return to court after the game so that the trademark issues could be resolved once and for all. Barrolle advised, however, that no resolution was ever reached because some of the defendants agreed to return to Barrolle Sports Association after the 2010 game. (Hr'g Tr. 31-33.) Plaintiffs submitted a Memorandum of Understanding signed by Moses Tarr, a defendant in the 2010 litigation, and Charles Roberts, Jr., president of the Trenton chapter, which states that the Mighty Barrolle Sports Association and the New Jersey chapter of the Union of Mighty Barrolle have agreed to merge into a single body. (Hr'g Ex. P-5.) Barrolle stated that the individual Defendants in this litigation did not agree to return to his organization.*fn1 (Hr'g Tr. 32-33.)

Herbert Cooper, chairman of the Liberian Sports Association of Pennsylvania, testified for Defendants. He advised that in August 2002, he registered the trademarks "Invincible Eleven" and "Mighty Barrolle" with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. (Hr'g Ex. D-1.) Plaintiffs' counsel argued, however, that this document was simply an application for a trademark, not a registration. No additional evidence was offered with regard to the present status of the trademarks. Cooper advised that the Invincible Eleven and Mighty Barrolle have played games in Pennsylvania under the auspices of his organization since 2002. (Hr'g Tr. 38.) On June 3, 2011, Cooper filed a lawsuit against Plaintiffs in the Court of Common Pleas Delaware County alleging that Plaintiffs were infringing his trademarks. (Id. at 40, 48.) This state-court action sought to prohibit Plaintiffs from hosting their soccer game on July 23, 2011, at Bensalem High School. That lawsuit was stayed pending the outcome of this lawsuit, which was not filed until Monday, July 18, 2011. (Id. at 47.) Cooper testified that he attempted, without success, to stop Plaintiffs' soccer game last year by sending them a cease-and-desist letter. (Id. at 41-43.) During cross-examination, Cooper conceded that the Invincible Eleven existed as a soccer team before he received his Pennsylvania trademarks. (Id. at 45.)

D. Zeogar Wilson, former president of the Mighty Barrolle Sports Association of Trenton, testified for Defendants. He testified that his organization has hosted soccer games between Might Barrolle and Invincible Eleven since 1991. (Id. at 50-51.) He stated that Mighty Barrolle of Trenton has been registered since 1995 and that this entity is the earliest legally registered organization of Mighty Barrolle in the United States. (Id. at 50.) He further testified that he believes the state ...


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