The city of Pasadena issued a terse statement Tuesday blasting the Tournament of Roses Association in response to a recently filed lawsuit over ownership of Rose Bowl Game trademarks, vowing to “vigorously” defend the city’s position in court.

The Tournament of Roses Association filed the suit last week, asking a federal court to 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.

City officials last week declined to comment, saying it had not reviewed the lawsuit. But on Tuesday, it issued a short statement noting that while the city doesn’t not typically comment on pending litigation, “the egregiousness and contentiousness of the Tournament of Roses’ legal action last week warrants a response.”

“The city is disappointed that its longtime partner, the Tournament of Roses, has chosen this divisive path,” according to the city. “The fact is, the dispute between the parties is not about trademarks, as the Tournament has claimed. It is about the Master License Agreement between the parties that requires that the Rose Bowl Game be played at the Rose Bowl Stadium.”

Mayor Victor Gordo added in a statement: “It is unexpected and unfortunate that our partner for nearly a century has chosen this route.”

In announcing the lawsuit last week, Tournament of Roses officials insisted they had no intention of moving the game out of Pasadena. But Tournament of Roses Executive Director/CEO David 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.”

Tensions between the entities escalated when restrictions arising from the COVID-19 pandemic caused the cancellation of the annual Rose Parade and barred fans from attending the Rose Bowl Game in Pasadena. The game was ultimately moved to Arlington, Texas, marking the first time since 1942 the Rose Bowl was played outside of Pasadena.

The Los Angeles 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.

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.

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