Tribune sues Times over tabloid name

By Times Staff Writer
Published February 18, 2006

The Tampa Tribune filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against the Times Publishing Co., owner of the St. Petersburg Times, over the name of a weekday tabloid to be launched March 6.

In the complaint filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Tampa, the Tribune alleges that the trademark of the weekly tabloid, Tampa Bay Times, is so similar to the Tampa Times - a mark owned by the Tribune - that "Tampa residents are certain to be confused."

The lawsuit was filed by the Tribune's corporate parent, Media General Operations of Richmond, Va., and by Tribune Company Holdings, an intellectual property holding company whose assets include two trademarks, including the Tampa Tribune and the Tampa Times.

In September 2004, the St. Petersburg Times began publishing Tampa Bay Times, also known as tbt*, as a weekly newspaper aimed at young adult readers. Last April, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office canceled the Tribune's trademark registration for Tampa Bay Times, determining it had abandoned use of the term by not using it for three years.

But in its lawsuit, the Tribune claims "the Tampa Times and Tampa Bay Times convey substantially the same commercial impression."

On Friday, Gil Thelen, Tribune publisher and president, said, "The Tampa Bay Times has been ours for a long time. If someone puts out a publication that will confuse people, we act to protect our interest. I am confident we will prevail."

Andrew Corty, vice president of Times Publishing Co., said, "We've been publishing the Tampa Bay Times since September 2004 and in that year and a half, not one person from the Tribune has uttered one word of complaint to us. We've looked at the lawsuit and find it has absolutely no merit and we intend to vigorously defend our lawful right to use that name."

Thelen declined to comment on the timing of the Tribune's lawsuit.

The Tampa Times was an afternoon newspaper that merged with the Tampa Tribune and ceased publication in 1982.