Lawsuits by Retired NFL Players
Cause Jump in Trademark Filings

Number Latest Month 705
Percent Change from previous month 144.8%
Percent Change from 1 year ago 32.2%
Percent Change from 5 years ago 21.5%

Table 1. Trademark Civil Filings

The latest available data from the federal courts show that during September 2014 the government reported 705 new Trademark civil filings. Those cases had the nature of suit classified by the court system under "Property Rights" along with Patent and Copyright cases. According to the case-by-case information analyzed by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), this number is up 145% over the previous month when the number of civil filings of this type totaled 288.

The comparisons of the number of civil filings for trademark-related suits are based on case-by-case court records which were compiled and analyzed by TRAC (see Table 1).

Most of this increase appears to be due to retired football players who brought suit against the National Football League (NFL), alleging that the NFL used their likenesses to generate income without their permission or compensation. Over 450 such cases were filed in district court in Minnesota in September, more than all trademark lawsuits in any month in the last five years.

When monthly 2014 civil filings of this type are compared with those of the same period in the previous year, their number was up 32.2 percent. Civil filings for September 2014 are higher than they were for the same period five years ago. Overall, the data show that civil filings of this type are up 21.5 percent from levels reported in September 2009.

Bar and line plot of fymon

Figure 1. Trademark Civil Filings over the last 5 years

The long term trend in trademark civil filings going back five years is shown more clearly in Figure 1. The vertical bars in Figure 1 represent the number of trademark civil filings of this type recorded each month. The superimposed line on the bars plots the six-month moving average so that natural fluctuations are smoothed out. One-year and five-year change comparisons are based upon the moving averages.

Top Ranked Judicial Districts

Relative to population, the volume of civil matters of this type filed in federal district courts during September 2014 was 2.2 per every million persons in the United States. One year ago the relative number of filings was 0.8. Understandably, there is great variation in the per capita number of trademark civil filings in each of the nation's ninety-four federal judicial districts. Table 2 lists the ten most active districts for such cases in per capita terms in September 2014.

Judicial District Percapita Count Rank 1yr ago 5yrs ago
Minnesota 86.8 467 1 25 56
Fla, S 3.0 21 2 4 4
Nevada 2.9 8 3 40 49
Ill, N 2.5 23 4 2 27
N. Y., S 2.3 12 5 1 1
Montana 2.0 2 6 - -
Tenn, W 1.9 3 7 28 6
Cal, C 1.7 32 8 3 2
Cal, N 1.5 12 9 7 15
Cal, S 1.5 5 10 9 7

Table 2. Top Ten Districts (per One Million People)

  • The District of Minnesota — with 86.8 civil filings as compared with 2.2 civil filings per one million people in the United States — was the most active through September 2014.

  • The Southern District of Florida ranked second. The Southern District of Florida was ranked fourth a year ago as well as five years ago.

  • The District of Nevada now ranks third.

The federal judicial district which showed the greatest growth in the rate of trademark civil filings compared to one year ago — 11,575 percent — was Minnesota. This was the same district that had the largest increase — 45,620 percent — when compared with five years ago.

In the last year, the judicial District Court recording the largest drop in the rate of trademark civil filings — 22.0 percent — was the Central District of California. But over the past five years, the Southern District of New York showed the largest drop — 52.2 percent.

Each month, TRAC offers a free report focused on one area of civil litigation in the U.S. district courts. In addition, subscribers to the TRACFed data service can generate custom reports by district, office, nature of suit or federal jurisdiction via the TRAC Data Interpreter.

Report Date: October 20, 2014
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Copyright 2014, TRAC Reports, Inc.