Note: This story was updated at 12:40 p.m.
A federal judge has issued a preliminary injunction to stop a group of developers who are trying to revitalize the former Lake City from using Rocky Top as a trademark for goods or services.
The preliminary injunction was issued on Friday by Chief U.S. District Judge Thomas Varlan of the Eastern District of Tennessee.
The former Lake City Council changed the town’s name to Rocky Top in June 2014. The idea was to use the name change to spur developments along Interstate 75 that could be worth up to $237 million. Proposed projects include an indoor and outdoor water park, interactive theater with a children’s museum, a coal miners music theater, and laser tag, among other things. Officials had said those developments—which have also included other options such as a hotel, restaurant, and candy company—wouldn’t happen without the name change.
But House of Bryant Publications, which owns the rights to the iconic bluegrass song “Rocky Top” and related trademarks, filed suit in federal court in March 2014 against the city and the developers, Rocky Top Tennessee Marketing and Manufacturing Company.
Varlan initially denied House of Bryant’s request for a preliminary injunction against the developers in May 2014, saying it was premature since the developers asserted that they did not have plans to use or sell the trademarks.
“However, almost immediately after the decision, the developers began to do just that,” Patterson Intellectual Property Law in Nashville, which represents House of Bryant, said in a press release.
“Among other things, they filed applications for at least eight trademarks that include iterations of Rocky Top and announced an agreement with a Knoxville-based fashion designer to sell apparel and souvenirs bearing House of Bryant’s Rocky Top trademark,” the release said.
The law firm said those actions caused House of Bryant to ask Varlan to reconsider his decision. The judge found that there was “seemingly little remaining for the defendant developers to do” other than commence inevitably infringing activities and thus ordered them to immediately stop all use, the press release said.
“In support of his order, the judge cited House of Bryant’s strong likelihood of success in its trademark infringement claims as well as the high degree of irreparable harm it would suffer during the pendency of the suit,” the release said. “While an injunction sometimes requires the plaintiff to post a security bond to cover the cost or damages a party who is wrongfully enjoined may suffer, the court here found that a bond was not necessary.”
Tim Isbel—who is an Anderson County Commissioner, one of the defendants, and a leader in the effort to revitalize Lake City as Rocky Top—said he was meeting with an attorney on Wednesday afternoon and could have more information later.
Patterson Intellectual Property Law said the preliminary injunction is “merely one step toward (House of Bryant’s) overall goal of enforcing their rights.”
A trial is currently set for February 2016.
Read the preliminary injunction order here: Preliminary Injunction Order April 24, 2015.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
See previous stories here.