WASHINGTON – An amateur artist who proved that the Baltimore Ravens used his “Flying B” logo will not get a dime for it.
A divided panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Frederick Bouchat’s argument that he should have reaped some of the profits from Ravens merchandise that carried the logo.
“Bouchat offered only speculation as to the existence of a causal link between the infringement and the revenues” generated by the merchandise, the panel wrote. “Bouchat rested on his speculation that somehow, somewhere, some part of the defendants’ (Ravens) revenues . . . was influenced by the fact that the defendants’ selected the Flying B rather than some other logo.”
But no jury “could find that the infringing Flying B logo enabled the defendants to generate more income,” Judge Robert King wrote.
A lower court had already found that the Ravens’ logo was identical to the one Bouchat, a Baltimore security guard, submitted to the Maryland Stadium Authority without getting credit.
In a subsequent trial, however, jurors declined to award any damages to Bouchat, apparently agreeing with the Ravens that their profits could be attributed to factors other than his logo.
Neither Bouchat, his attorney nor attorneys for the Ravens could be reached for comment Thursday.
But Jim Astrachan, an intellectual property attorney with Astrachan Gunst & Thomas in Baltimore, called the ruling “absolutely tortured.” He noted that items sell for a lot more money with logos on them. A plain wool cap can cost $2, he said, but the same cap with a Flying B can cost $14.
“The point is it has the (Bouchat) design on it,” said Astrachan.
In a dissent, Justice H. Emory Widener Jr. wrote that the lower court erred by failing to tell jurors that the Ravens’ profits are presumed to be linked to the logo unless the Ravens proved otherwise. This oversight “cut the heart out of the plaintiff’s case.”
Astrachan agreed that the majority decision inexplicably shifted the burden of proof from the Ravens to Bouchat.
“I think, quite frankly, the burden’s on the wrong foot,” Astrachan said.
He said jurors also should have been told that they were hearing a copyright case. While Bouchat did not register for a copyright before the Ravens used his logo, the design was his intellectual property once he drew it on a piece of paper, Astrachan said.
Bouchat was a security guard in a Baltimore office building in 1995 when he learned that the Cleveland Browns were moving to Maryland, but leaving the team name behind. An artist by hobby, Bouchat began drawing logo designs for the various team names under consideration.
A state official who saw some of his designs arranged a meeting with Maryland Stadium Authority John Moag, who told Bouchat to send him the drawings so he could pass them along to team officials.
The team chose the name Ravens and the National Football League decided to use the Flying B to promote the new team. The Ravens then used the logo without knowing that they had infringed anyone’s work, according to court documents.
Court papers also said that Bouchat — who sued for $10 million — had originally asked only for a letter of recognition and an autographed helmet if the Ravens decided to use his drawing. While Bouchat had not initially asked for money, Widener wrote, he was entitled to compensation to “prevent the infringer from unfairly benefiting from a wrongful act.”