AZA Wins Trademark Dispute for Illinois Youth Football Team June 27, 2022
CHICAGO – Historic Chicago-area youth football program, Park Ridge Sports, Inc., took on disgruntled former board members to reclaim its trademarked team name of 55 years. Ahmad, Zavitsanos & Mensing P.C. (AZA) swiftly overcame an inherited federal district court’s denial of a temporary injunction and built a strong case, forcing a settlement during trial and after jury selection. AZA secured damages beyond those sought at trial, attorney’s fees and an injunction to cease the defendants’ from using the “Park Ridge Falcons” name.
In March 2020, Tim Walbert, Jamie Purcell, Jeff Kilburg, and Lou Karnezis formed the illegitimate “Park Ridge Travel Falcons,” creating confusion for players, parents and even for coaches who were mistaking the team as the long-established “Park Ridge Falcons.” This confusion, however, was not an accident. Walbert, Purcell and Karnezis were former Park Ridge Sports, Inc. board members and Kilburg was a former assistant to a Park Ridge Falcons coach. After a rift with the football program over the denial of creating an “ultra elite” children’s program, the group left Park Ridge Sports, Inc. to pursue their agenda under a new entity, while unlawfully continuing to use nearly the same name.
But instead of simply starting the “Park Ridge Travel Falcons,” which they later said couldn’t be confused with “Park Ridge Falcons,” Defendants’ hired an attorney and demanded that Park Ridge Sports, Inc. stop using the name it has had for over half a century. Park Ridge Sports, Inc. fought back with its own lawsuit to put an end to the attempted theft of their trademark, bringing on AZA to get their case across the finish line.
Through discovery, AZA demonstrated a pattern of malintent and misbehavior associated with the Park Ridge Travel Falcons threatening the Park Ridge Falcons brand and reputation. In one deposition, Walbert admitted under oath that the Park Ridge Travel Falcons intentionally used a name synonymous with Park Ridge Falcons to leverage the program’s historic brand. Additionally, on the same day Purcell resigned from the Park Ridge Sports, Inc. board of directors, Purcell filed for a trademark for the “Park Ridge Falcons.” In the application for the trademark, Purcell attested that no one else was using the Park Ridge Falcons name, even though he knew the Park Ridge Sports, Inc. board he just resigned from had no intention of disbanding the Park Ridge Falcons name. Discovery also exposed that Purcell, in the middle of a youth football game, ran across the field and assaulted the opposing coach. Purcell eventually avoided a suspension by Park Ridge Sports, Inc.by teaming up with the other Defendants to create the Park Ridge Travel Falcons the same day all of the Defendants resigned from the Park Ridge Sports, Inc. board.
Defendants’ conduct did not stop there. Once formed, the Park Ridge Travel Falcons ignored Illinois’ 2020 COVID restrictions by skirting the rules and playing in Indiana’s Pop Warner league. Defendants then proceeded to pay coaches, hold tryouts, and cut players in direct violation of Pop Warner rules. In the same year, Defendants traveled to Florida to play in the Pop Warner regional show case and played under Park Ridge Sports, Inc.’s name Park Ridge Falcons. After winning the showcase, Defendants proceeded to mislead the public by endlessly promoting they “won the Pop Warner National Championship,” despite Pop Warner proclaiming it did not have a football national championship in 2020.
Similarly, following the adage “a best defense is a good offense,” Purcell and Walbert’s company, Horizon Therapeutics, filed a counterclaim against Park Ridge Sports, Inc. alleging the non-profit stole money meant for Park Ridge children. But after AZA was hired, Purcell, Walbert, and Horizon Therapeutics dropped the claim, admitting in the settlement agreement that they had no basis for the claim. “Defendants’ allegations targeted individual board members, were admittedly baseless, and in my opinion, were fabricated for litigation. I’m thrilled the Park Ridge Sports board has been vindicated so the community now knows the truth,” said AZA lawyer Harrison Scheer, who tried the case with Michael Killingsworth and Thomas Frashier.
His co-counsel Michael Killingsworth, who led the all-associate AZA trial team, also highlighted how much the win meant to the community. “We were excited to try this case against the defendants in open court to get the truth out and in the open after a two-year misinformation campaign by the defendants. But we are also glad this is settled and done and that the rightful owner of the Park Ridge Falcons name prevailed. The most important thing is the long-standing Park Ridge Falcons football program can go forward offering kids a chance to play under the leadership of Park Ridge Sports, Inc., an entity with volunteers that have instilled leadership, character, and teamwork in the youth of Park Ridge since 1967.”
The case is Park Ridge Sports, Inc. v. Park Ridge Travel Falcons et al case No. 1:20-cv-02244 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois before Judge Ronald A. Guzman.
AZA is a Houston-based law firm that is home to true courtroom lawyers with a formidable track record in complex commercial litigation, including energy, healthcare, intellectual property, and business dispute cases. AZA is recognized by Chambers USA 2021 among the best in Texas commercial law and intellectual property; by U.S. News – Best Lawyers’ Best Law Firms as one of the country’s best commercial litigation firms for ten years running; has been named Litigation Department of the Year by Texas Lawyer; and was previously dubbed by Law360 a Texas Powerhouse law firm.