Lawsuits

A Legal Roundup After a Busy Day in Soccer Lawsuits

Just when things look like they are quieting down…

Tuesday morning started off quietly enough, and then the floodgates opened, as we got news on no less than three cases/lawsuits in the United States. Well, technically one of them is a “foreign” case, but given that it has the ability to drastically impact soccer here domestically, I’d say it counts.

First, we got the answer from the US Soccer Federation to the US Women’s National Team lawsuit on pay discrimination; then I got a tip that F.C. Internazionale has filed a motion to dismiss MLS’ opposition to their trademark application for the term “Inter.” THEN late Tuesday evening, I got word that a long-running petition to require FIFA and US Soccer to implement Promotion and Relegation is being heard before the Court of Arbitration for Sport. Like I said, just when things look like they’re quieting down…

So, let’s go over them in brief. Ladies first.

US Soccer responds to USWNT complaint:

I’ve previously broken down the USWNT lawsuit, and there are still several moving parts. We don’t know where this case will be heard yet (San Francisco, Los Angeles and Chicago are all in the running), but in the meantime, the Federation filed their answer to the allegations. I’m hopeful to write up a more detailed story (hoping for some interviews to shed some light on things), but you can review my Twitter timeline for a blow-by-blow.

The main thing to note for the time being is that you can see the Federation’s defense taking shape: The USMNT and USWNT programs are fundamentally different, in both nature of their respective competitions and revenue possibilities, such that a purely “equal” pay structure is essentially impossible. This part from the Federation’s answer is instructive.

The Federation argues the USMNT and USWNT programs and fundamentally different.

It’ll be an interesting argument to make to the court; after all, they are playing the same sport (aren’t they?). I don’t know how a court would see it (again, we are a LONG way out from a trial), and there are still quite a few moving parts before we even get to that point. Like I said, I hope to do a deeper dive later this week.

Beyond that, the answer was your basic legal document: The Federation denied many of the allegations contained with the USWNT complaint (standard procedure) and supplied some affirmative defenses (you generally have to raise them now, or lose them later). We now wait to see where the case goes from here (as soon as we find out WHERE the case will be held).

F.C. Internazionale files motion to dismiss MLS’s opposition to “Inter” trademark application

A case that has the potentially to cause MLS a problem, though not on the field per se. Inter Miami got some good news yesterday when FXE Futbol decided not to pursue the lawsuit over Lockhart stadium any further (yet another piece of legal news), which paves the way for the demolition of the stadium on Wednesday. So Inter Miami now has a place to play in 2020.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that there are still about 6 pending legal actions (give or take). One of which is the fight over the name “Inter.” The most famous of which resides in Italy and has filed a trademark name over the name. MLS filed in opposition to that some time ago, and a trial is set for 2020. That is if we get that far, because the Italian Inter (that’s going to get annoying) filed a motion to dismiss MLS’s opposition. It’s mostly on technical grounds, but since it’s pretty short, I’ll address it here.

Inter Milan’s argument in support of dismissing MLS’s opposition

We’re talking about priority, or “dibs” here. The problem for MLS (as Internazionale sees it) is that MLS–at best–can’t establish they had any rights to the name “Inter” prior to Internazionale filing for the claim. The Italian side explains:

Because MLS did not assert any rights to the name prior to 2014, Internazionale argues that they have no ability to assert any prior trademark rights.

Fascinating stuff here. MLS will of course respond, and then the USPTO will render a decision on this argument. Stay tuned.

Promotion and Relegation to the United States?

Lastly, there is a case that has been simmering for nearly two years: The petition from Miami FC and Kingston Stockade to require FIFA to force US Soccer to implement promotion and relegation domestically. The case has been a black hole since it was filed back in August 2017 before the Court of Arbitration for Sport. I mean, there was NO information getting out. As I’ve recently learned, that’s because there was a gag order on the parties. Still, nothing stays a secret forever, and this evening I was able to FINALLY figure out what’s going on.

Finally some news on the petition to enforce promotion and relegation in the United States.

I was later able to confirm the case is in fact before a panel in New York as we speak, and presumably we’ll have an answer pretty soon. Again, this is a story I’d like to do a deeper dive on down the line. But if you’d like the opinion of a professor, Steven Bank write a legal abstract on the matter which I highly recommend. Don’t worry, it’s not nearly as dry as it sounds. For those who haven’t been following along, here is a quick summary of what the claimants are asking for.

Requests for relief from Miami FC and Kingston Stockade.

That’s it for this roundup. I’ll have a podcast coming later in the week.

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