Defense attorneys are calling it the “legal and economic equivalent of the death penalty” for a Lawrence T-shirt retailer.
The owners of Joe-College.com are asking a federal judge to reconsider her recent ruling, ordering them to pay $667,507 in attorneys fees and expenses to Kansas Athletics Inc. The expenses were amassed during a court case over KU-themed T-shirts that Joe-College.com was selling.
“I just wanted to make sure that some of the things we felt were important as part of this issue were things that (U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson) was able to give full consideration to,” said Jim Tilly, an attorney for Larry Sinks, an owner of the store, 734 Mass.
In the motion, Tilly and attorney Cody Robertson argue that Robinson must reconsider her order because she “made findings of fact that are not supported by the record.” The defense asks that she reverse the decision to award legal fees to KU.
Robinson ruled in late September that Sinks, Clark Orth and Victory Sportswear LLC — collectively known as Joe-College.com — must cover Kansas Athletics’ costs in the case brought against the store for trademark infringement.
“(Their filing) is not surprising considering the amount the judge awarded us,” said Jim Marchiony, a KU associate athletics director.
A jury in 2008 found that 53 of the 206 Joe-College T-shirt designs in question infringed upon or diluted KU’s trademarks. After the verdict, Sinks and his group were responsible for paying $127,000 in penalties for selling shirts that jurors said could be confused with official KU-licensed merchandise.
Attorneys for Sinks say the verdict is important because jurors found KU was entitled to recover damages on only a quarter of the shirts presented in the July trial.
“The jury rejected KU’s claims regarding the remaining shirts, and in doing so, sent a message that Joe College should remain in business,” defense attorneys wrote. “Ironically, by awarding KU $667,507.42 in attorneys’ fees and expenses, the court may have delivered a crushing blow to defendants from which there is no possibility of recovery.”
The attorneys also argue that Sinks did not intentionally infringe of KU’s trademarks and that early on he relied on an attorney’s advice on which shirts to stop manufacturing due to KU trademarks and which ones were OK.
Both sides in the case have filed appeals. KU is appealing the jury’s original verdict, and Sinks was already trying to reduce the original penalty from the verdict.