By Jonathan Stempel
NEW YORK (Reuters) – The administrator of the Heisman Trophy, given annually to U.S. college football’s most outstanding player, on Wednesday sued the operators of the Heisman Watch website and related social media accounts, alleging copyright and trademark infringement.
In a complaint filed in Manhattan federal court, the Heisman Trophy Trust accused the defendants of causing “irreparable harm” by confusing fans, and depriving it of its exclusive right to goodwill and other value associated with the Heisman name.
The lawsuit challenges (http://heismanwatch.com), the @heismanwatch account on Facebook, the @Heismanology1 feed on Twitter, and a Heisman Watch podcast available on the website and Apple’s iTunes. It seeks unspecified triple damages and an injunction.
HeismanWatch.com contains a full-width disclaimer near the top of its home page that says “Heisman Watch is in no way affiliated with the Heisman Trophy Trust.”
The defendants include Chase Leavitt, Joseph Middleton and Kimball Dean Parker, all from Salt Lake City, court papers show.
They did not immediately respond to requests for comment. A lawyer for them could not be identified. Lawyers for the trust did not immediately respond to separate requests for comment.
HeismanWatch.com promises insight and analysis into the Heisman race, and a “calculator” that uses a regression model to assess statistical and voter data from past years to identify players who might win the current year’s trophy.
Named for the Hall of Fame coach John Heisman, the Heisman Memorial Trophy was created by the Downtown Athletic Club in Manhattan 1935.
The Heisman Trophy Trust, a charitable trust, has administered the trophy since 2006. (https://www.heisman.com/about-the-heisman/milestones/).
This year’s trophy is scheduled to be awarded on Dec. 8.
The case is Heisman Trophy Trust v Leavitt et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 18-09051.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; editing by Bill Berkrot)