City, Tournament of Roses Spar Over Pending Trademark Litigation

Photo courtesy Rose Bowl Legacy Foundation
The Tournament of Roses Association filed a lawsuit last week against the city of Pasadena, asking a federal court to determine ownership of the “Rose Bowl” and “Rose Bowl Game” trademarks.

Following the Tournament of Roses Association’s decision last week to sue the city of Pasadena over ownership rights of the “Rose Bowl” and “Rose Bowl Game” trademarks, the city on Tuesday rebuked the legal action and admonished its longtime partner, saying it was done with “egregiousness and contentiousness.”
In its lawsuit, the TOR Association contends it has full ownership of the name, while the city claims it shares naming rights. The association has asked a Los Angeles federal court to determine ownership of the trademarks, according to the complaint.
Tensions between the two entities allegedly arose after the annual Rose Parade was canceled due to restrictions from the coronavirus pandemic. The Rose Bowl Game was moved to Arlington, Texas, after it was determined fans would not be allowed to watch from the stands in Pasadena.
In the statement issued last week, TOR Executive Director/CEO David Eads said: “We are a nonprofit civic organization with hundreds of volunteers and deep roots in Pasadena. This is where the parade and the game belong every year, and we have no intention of going anywhere. Unfortunately, the city of Pasadena’s attempt to assert co-ownership in what are indisputably our trademarks threatens to interfere with our ability to carry out even routine business activities, and we have no choice but to get confirmation of our rights by the courts.”
On Tuesday, however, after the City Council met Monday in closed session to discuss the matter, it issued a short statement saying while the city doesn’t typically comment on pending litigation, “the egregiousness and contentiousness of the Tournament of Roses’ legal action last week warrants a response.”
The city says it is resolute and has vowed to “vigorously defend” its position in the matter.
“The city is disappointed that its long-time partner, the Tournament of Roses, has chosen this divisive path,” it said, adding that the dispute is not about trademarks, as the TOR Association has claimed, but about the Master License Agreement between the parties that requires that the Rose Bowl Game be played at the Rose Bowl Stadium.
According to Mayor Victor Gordo, “It is unexpected and unfortunate that our partner for nearly a century has chosen this route.”
The federal court lawsuit states that the tournament association invoked the “force majeure” clause of its contract, maintaining that the pandemic was out of its control, so the association had the right to move the game out of Pasadena to AT&T Stadium in Arlington, only the second time the game has been played elsewhere since 1942.
Although the dispute originated in the move of the game — a move agreed to by the city — problems have persisted through the city’s “continued insistence that it is the co-owner of the marks and that its consent is necessary” to invoke the contract “force majeure” clause, according to the TOR Association.