The CIAA has filed a copyright infringement lawsuit in federal court against party promoters, concert promoters, nightclubs and merchandisers, claiming they are using the conferences name without permission.
The suit, filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Charlotte, demands that promoters stop using the conferences trademarked name. In addition, CIAA is demanding ownership of several websites it believes to be in violation, along with triple the value of any profits derived from unauthorized use of its name.
The conference, whose members include Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte and a number of other Carolinas schools, took the action less than two weeks before its annual mens and womens basketball tournaments begin at Time Warner Cable Arena.
The CIAAs move follows legal action taken in recent years by the NFL with the Super Bowl, and the NCAA with the annual mens college basketball tournament. Advertisers cannot make specific reference to the Super Bowl unless they have permission from the NFL, and many companies use big game as a replacement reference.
One expert said sports-related copyright feuds are usually settled out-of-court when one side sends a formal letter objecting to the use of its material.
The enforcement of copyright is more aggressive in recent years in the sporting world, but actual litigation is fairly rare, said Michael McCann, director of the Sports Law Institute at the University of New Hampshire.
Elvado Laing from Paradice Entertainment one of the named defendants said Friday that hed heard a rumor about a month ago that the CIAA would be cracking down.
He threw away 5,000 fliers that billed a March 2 Island Style 3 event as being affiliated with the conference.
Laing said in previous years, Paradice has advertised two other events using the conferences name without incident.
This is the third year, he said. I had no idea it was an issue, a problem or against the law.
The CIAA short for the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association is a network of historically black colleges spread from Pennslyvania to North Carolina.
Its tournament ranks among Charlottes biggest events, drawing tens of thousands of people to the city for a week of basketball, parties, concerts and other events.
City officials last year estimated the tournament poured $50 million into the local economy.
This years tournament is scheduled for Feb. 26 through March 2, although events connected to the tournament begin Feb. 25 and end March 3.
Many ads already printed
The suit comes after many concert and party promoters already have printed brochures and set up websites, advertising their events in the Charlotte area during the tournament. Some sites remained online Friday.
The CIAA, represented by attorney Carlos Watson of Charlotte, says in its suit that with increased popularity of the CIAA Tournament, individuals, groups and corporations have begun hosting parties, marketing events, and counterfeiting in and around the Charlotte area during the tournament week.
Also with increased fan participation, certain individuals, groups and corporations have begun selling merchandise related to the conference tournament.
The CIAA sponsors several non-basketball events during tournament week, including special programs for this year aimed middle school and high school students on Feb. 27; a bowling party, also Feb. 27; a career expo and a skating party, each on Feb. 28; and CIAA Toyota Fan Experience on Feb. 28 and March 1; and a post-tournament party March 2 featuring singer Chaka Khan.
Only those events, the conference says, should be using the CIAA name.
Defendants listed in the suit are:
• Allure Life Entertainment of Charlotte, which CIAA says handles online advertising for events.
• Michael Walker, a Virginia man who the conference says operated an entertainment and promotion company based in Virginia.
• Southern Dynasty Entertainment, based in Charlotte
• Torri Entertainment, also based in Charlotte
• 5th Element, a night club at West 5th and Graham streets
• Maz Entertainment, based in Charlotte
• Dream NC, which operates a night club in Matthews
• Neighborhood Theatre, BrightWork Entertainment, Paradice Entertainment and Lion Tribe Entertainment.
• A number of John Doe defendants accused of selling apparel and merchandise with the CIAAs name.
The suit says the CIAA believes that the significant number of defendants reside in and around the Western District of North Carolina.
Also named was the Neighborhood Theatre in Charlottes North Davidson Arts District. The lawsuit says it plans on hosting a reggae concert or party called Island Style 2.
Friday afternoon, Neighborhood Theatre Manager Zac McNabb said he didnt know the venue had been named in the lawsuit.
We have just been made aware of the allegations and we have referred the matter to our attorneys, he said.
In addition to Johnson C. Smith, other Carolinas members are Livingstone College in Salisbury; Chowan University in Murfreesboro; Fayetteville State University; Elizabeth City State University; St. Augustine's University in Raleigh; Shaw University in Raleigh; and Winston-Salem State University.
The Observers Maria David contributed.