The Tournament of Roses Association Thursday sued the city of Pasadena in order to have a federal court determine ownership of the “Rose Bowl” and “Rose Bowl Game” trademarks.
The association contends it has full ownership of the name, while the city alleges it shares naming rights.
“We are a nonprofit civic organization with hundreds of volunteers and deep roots in Pasadena,” Tournament of Roses Executive Director/CEO David Eads said in a statement. “This is where the parade and the game belong every year, and we have no intention of going anywhere.”
Eads said the city’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.”
A representative of the city of Pasadena did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
Tensions between the entities apparently escalated when restrictions arising from the COVID-19 pandemic caused the cancellation of the annual Rose Parade and fans were banned from the stands for the Rose Bowl Game, which was ultimately held in Arlington, Texas, according to the complaint filed in Los Angeles federal court.
The Tournament of Roses and the College Football Playoffs Committee worked to move the game to Texas, marking the first time since 1942 that the Rose Bowl was played outside of Pasadena.
The 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.
Although the dispute originated in the move of the game, a move agreed to by Pasadena, 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’s “force majeure” clause, according to the association.
“While the association has no plans or desire to move the game in the future — this year was only the second time in history the Rose Bowl Game was played outside Pasadena, the other time being the immediate aftermath of the December 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor — it does need a court’s clarification of its contractual and ownership rights,” Eads said.