U.S. judge denies request to stop Lake City’s name change to Rocky Top

Tim Isbel at Hearing on Lake City Name Change to Rocky Top

Tim Isbel, president of the Rocky Top Marketing and Manufacturing Co., at a federal court hearing in May on Lake City’s proposed name change to Rocky Top.

A federal judge on Wednesday denied for now a request to stop Lake City from changing its name to Rocky Top.

The preliminary injunction had been requested by House of Bryant Publications LLC, the Gatlinburg publisher of “Rocky Top,” a well-known bluegrass song closely identified with the University of Tennessee and its Volunteers athletics program.

The Lake City Council could reconsider the name change as early as June. The council endorsed the name change in November, and it was approved by the Tennessee General Assembly this year in a bill that has already been signed by Gov. Bill Haslam. Anderson County Commissioner Tim Isbel has said Lake City could become Rocky Top on July 3 under the new state law.

Isbel is president of Rocky Top Tennessee Marketing and Manufacturing Co. That company has proposed a development that could be worth up to $450 million over six years and include an indoor and outdoor water park, coal miners theater, children’s museum, train rides, restaurant, and a candy company on some 300 acres near two exits off Interstate 75. Officials have said it could bring 200 new jobs to Lake City and generate another $6 million in sales tax per year. But the project hinges on the name change.

House of Bryant filed a federal lawsuit in March, seeking to prevent the name change. The defendants are Lake City, Isbel, Rocky Top Tennessee Marketing and Manufacturing Co., Franklin resident Brad Coriell, Lake City businessman Mark Smith, Lake City Vice Mayor Michael Lovely, and Knoxville resident Carl “Buddy” Warren.

House of Bryant is owned by the sons of Boudleaux and Felice Bryant, who wrote “Rocky Top.” The company, which also owns many Rocky Top trademarks, has argued that the proposed name change for Lake City “is an attempt to unfairly exploit the fame and goodwill of House of Bryant’s intellectual property.” The lawsuit alleges trademark infringement, false advertising, unlawful taking, deceptive trade practices, and unfair competition.

The motion for preliminary injunction was denied by Chief U.S. District Judge Thomas A. Varlan in Knoxville on Wednesday.

More information will be added as it becomes available.

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