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Intellectual Property: Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders, Inc. v. Pussycat Cinema, Ltd.

This is an excerpt from Case Studies in Sport Law-2nd Edition by Andrew Pittman,John O. Spengler & Sarah Young.

Trademark law is another aspect addressed under intellectual property. The Lanham Act of 1946 and the Trademark Antidilution law of 1996 govern trademark law. Of the six cases presented in this section, five deal with situations involving trademark infringement. The Boston Athletic Association v. Sullivan case is a classic case of trademark infringement involving the consumer confusion of promotional goods. The Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders, Inc. v. Pussycat Cinema, Ltd. case illustrates how the combination of colors and the location of decorations on uniforms can be eligible for trademark protection when they have acquired secondary meaning. The Lyons Partnership v. Giannoulas case illustrates the role that a parody plays in trademark infringement. Use of the word “Olympic” by San Francisco Arts & Athletics, Inc. was the primary issue in San Francisco Arts & Athletics, Inc. v. United States Olympic Committee. Finally, in University of Pittsburgh v. Champion Products, Inc., the concepts of likelihood of confusion, functionality of goods, secondary meaning, and unfair competition were demonstrated.


Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders, Inc. v. Pussycat Cinema, Ltd.


604 F.2d 200 (2nd Cir. 1979)


This is an appeal from orders of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York granting plaintiff's motions for a preliminary injunction prohibiting Pussycat Cinema, Ltd., and Michael Zaffarano from distributing or exhibiting the motion picture Debbie Does Dallas. On March 14 this court granted defendants' motion to stay the injunction and ordered an expedited appeal. The case was argued before us on April 6, following which we dissolved the stay and reinstated the preliminary injunction.


Plaintiff in this trademark infringement action is Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of the Dallas Cowboys Football Club, Inc. Plaintiff employs 36 women who perform dance and cheerleading routines at Dallas Cowboys football games. The cheerleaders have appeared frequently on television programs and make commercial appearances at such public events as sporting goods shows and shopping center openings. In addition, plaintiff licenses others to manufacture and distribute posters, calendars, T-shirts, and the like depicting Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders in their uniforms. These products have enjoyed nationwide commercial success, due largely to the national exposure the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders have received through the news and entertainment media. Moreover, plaintiff has expended large amounts of money to acquaint the public with its uniformed cheerleaders and earns substantial revenue from their commercial appearances.

Learn more about Case Studies in Sport Law, Second Edition.