Penn State is suing a man whose business uses the university's trademarked names and logos to sell beer bottles, cigars and t-shirts, according to a lawsuit filed by the university on Friday.
The suit, filed in U.S. Middle District Court, alleges Sports Beer Brewing Company has infringed on Penn State's trademarks and engaged in a "brazen, willful effort to exploit and trade on the fame and goodwill" of the university. Paul Parshall of Naples, Florida is named as defendant.
In August 2016, Parshall filed to trademark "Penn State Nittany Beer" and "Penn State Nittany Brewing Co" with the Pennsylvania Department of State, according to the complaint.
Additionally, in May 2019, Parshall successfully registered "Penn State Nittany Cigars" through the Illinois trademark system.
In its suit, the university says Sports Beer Brewing Company was aware of the "Penn State" and "Nittany Lion" trademarks owned by the university. The suit alleges Parshall knew "Penn State Nittany Beer," "Penn State Nittany Brewing Co" and "Penn State Nittany Cigars" would spark confusion with the university's registered marks, and Parshall's intent was to "trade off of Penn State’s goodwill and reputation."
The university demands Parshall stop selling items with its name and logo, deliver all products with Penn State-registered trademarks to the university, and pay statutory damages of up to $2 million to Penn State.
According to its website, Sports Beer Brewing Company is an "intellectual property holding company consisting of a portfolio of sports trademarks, registrations and service marks for sports teams throughout the United States."
The business sells products featuring various college and professional sports teams' logos and names. Its website says it has obtained trademarks for all of its products that comply with Secretary of State regulations.
In 2017, Purdue University also took legal action against the business, according to Penn State's complaint.
The Daily Collegian reached out to Parshall for comment on the lawsuit. According to Sports Beer Brewing Company's website, Parshall is the "brewmaster" of the business.
Parshall registered to file the trademarks through Pennsylvania and Illinois' trademark systems rather than through the federal governement.
State trademark registrations do not require a search process for rejections of infringement or likelihood of confusion with an existing mark, according to the complaint. In addition, marks that are filed through the state are not publicly published.
Because of this, the university says there was no way it could have been publicly informed of Parshall's registration, and there was no process the university could have taken to challenge the registration.
The complaint claims Parshall has attempted to register trademarks through the federal system several times. These attempts have been abandoned after the United State Patent and Trademark Office "notices the obvious infringement," the suit says.
In March 2018, the Pennsylvania Governor's Office of General Counsel informed the university of the "Penn State Nittany Beer" registration.
Prior to filing the suit, Penn State sent two cease and desist letters to Parshall in June 2018 and June 2019. The letters told Parshall he was infringing on Penn State's trademarks rights, and demanded Parshall stop using the university's "protected trademarks" and destroy all products with the marks.
Parshall refused to stop using the mark both times, arguing the marks he filed were available and not owned by the university.
"'Penn state' has never used the name beer in any of their filings with the state or feds. this holds true for 'nittany'. i would be willing to work with you and the university," part of Parshall's June 2018 response reads in the suit.
Penn State's complaint also alleges Parshall offered to sell the marks to the university.
The university has requested a jury trial.