Logo artist files copyright lawsuits against Ravens, NFL

All Frederick E. Bouchat says he wanted years ago was recognition for his idea for the Ravens team logo.

Since the South Baltimore resident first sketched a flying raven clutching a shield with a "B" and faxed it to the Maryland Stadium Authority 16 years ago, he has won a court case crediting him with creating the Baltimore Ravens' first logo. But he has never been compensated.

Bouchat's long-running dispute with the Ravens took a new turn last week when he accused the franchise of another copyright infringement, this time because it appears in photos displayed at M&T Bank Stadium. The security guard and amateur artist also is challenging the National Football League's use of the old logo, saying in two pending lawsuits that he's getting no credit for a design that has resurfaced on television, on the Internet and in popular video games.

The cases, which accuse the Ravens and NFL of continuing to profit from Bouchat's design, will likely revolve around a novel legal question — whether the design has become a piece of history and therefore can be used freely. The Ravens and NFL deny they are profiting from using the logo.

Bouchat's attorney, Howard J. Schulman, characterizes the situation as a David and Goliath fight that has spanned years. Bouchat, who declined through his attorney to be interviewed, has long maintained the "Flying B," logo used from 1996 through 1998 was stolen from a drawing he created months before the team announced its name and logo.

A federal jury ruled in Bouchat's favor in 1998, and the Ravens adopted a new logo the next season. The team said it was unaware of the Bouchat artwork, credited NFL Properties with the design and appealed the ruing all the way to the Supreme Court, which declined to take the case.

In that case, Bouchat asked for $10 million in compensation, but none was awarded. Then last November, a federal judge ordered the NFL and the Ravens to compensate Bouchat for the logo's appearance in highlight films sold by the NFL, a result of a lawsuit Bouchat filed in 2008. The compensation has not yet been determined.

"He was an individual who was forgotten and shunned in the rush to market the team," Schulman said. "He's never gotten the appropriate credit, either personally or commercially. He's created something that was of value in an intellectual property sense."

And the Ravens continue to use the Bouchat logo, Schulman said. At M&T Bank Stadium, nine large photographs prominently show the Bouchat logo, according to the lawsuit filed Wednesday in federal court in Baltimore. The photos show former players such as Vinny Testaverde, Jonathan Ogden and Jermaine Lewis sporting the old logo.

The lawsuit argues Bouchat has exclusive rights under copyright laws to reproduce, publish or display his work and that "any commercial reproduction or display of the infringing logo" is in violation.

The Ravens declined to discuss the cases.

"While we are aware of the matter, we will withhold comment at this time, as it is now in litigation," Patrick Gleason, a Ravens spokesman, said in an email.

In two separate lawsuits, Bouchat accuses various NFL entities of copyright infringement for showing the former logo on an NFL television channel, on an NFL website and in Madden NFL video games. showed the logo in online film segments called "Top Ten Draft Classes: 1996 Baltimore Ravens." Members of the public viewed the work more than 66,000 times since 2007, the lawsuit says. The segment also was shown on the NFL network, the complaint says.

An NFL spokesman, Brian McCarthy, declined to comment on the federal lawsuits, filed in May and last October in Baltimore.

A defendant in one of the lawsuits, Redwood City, Calif.-based video game maker Electronic Arts Inc., used the Bouchat-copyrighted logo on retro uniforms in its games, such as Madden NFL 11 for the Sony PlayStation 3 game console, the lawsuit alleges. The logo appears as part of an option that lets players create historically accurate virtual football teams.

Gerard P. Martin, a Baltimore-based attorney for Electronic Arts, said the extent of the former logo's appearance in the video games has yet to be determined. He said the court will look at whether "the primary motive (is) to make money on it, or is it an historical fact." He contends that historical use is permitted, and the company argues it didn't profit from the use of the Flying B logo.

"There might have been some limited use, and more likely than not it was inadvertent," he said.

Copyright infringement cases involve two issues — the copyright breach and the resulting damages, said Ned T. Himmelrich, head of the intellectual property and technology section for Gordon Feinblatt LLC in Baltimore.

In Bouchat's initial suit against the Ravens, "he won, but he lost, because he won the infringement but he lost the damages," Himmelrich said. "And if a court found that way for the first infringement, it could be a reasonable guess that a court would find the same in the current cases."

The damages question in the new cases could hinge on whether consumers are buying products because of the old design.

"The fact that there's some nostalgia could be a new fact, in the posters and the video games, but there's a very high hurdle to get around a prior court case on what could be very similar facts," Himmelrich said.

Bouchat, who was taught to draw by his father, has sketched as a hobby, mostly drawing super hero characters, according to a brief filed in one of the earlier cases. In 1995, while working as a security guard at the Maryland Insurance Administration, Bouchat began drawing designs for a logo for the former Cleveland Browns football team moving to Baltimore.

State officials set up a meeting with John Moag, who as head of the stadium authority in 1995 and led the effort to bring an NFL franchise back to Baltimore. Bouchat was asked during that meeting in March 1996 to fax his logo to the stadium authority, court documents show.

Schulman says the first Bouchat heard of the team using his logo was when the team and logo were unveiled publicly in June 1996.

"He's been discouraged by the whole experience," Schulman said. The Ravens organization has "refused to pay royalties. We're asking the Ravens to play by the same rules they impose on other people when it comes to their intellectual property."