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Grand Slam Club/Ovis Wins, Sheep Lose

March 5, 2008.

As you may have heard, Grand Slam Club/Ovis (GSCO) had asked the federal courts to rule on the "unauthorized use of GSCO's trademarks" by The Foundation for North American Wild Sheep (FNAWS).

I fear to use the term in question, but here are some hints:

  • It is widely used in baseball, card games, and the Denny's breakfast menu, and has been documented in usage in the English language since 1892.
  • If you Google it, you will find approximately 7.4 million uses of it in about 0.35 seconds -- which may lead you to believe it's a common term.
  • Since 1948 (almost a decade prior to the founding of GSCO), it has also referred to a hunter taking each of the four North American sheep varieties -- Dall, Stone, Rocky Mountain or California Bighorn, and Desert Bighorn.
  • It rhymes with "Brand Lamb"

In a federal court in Alabama this January, a jury returned a verdict in favor of the GSCO claim. In the subsquent ruling from the judge, FNAWS was very firmly forbidden from ever using the controversial trademarked terminology again.

Additionally, GSCO was awarded $1.9 million in compensatory and punitive damages. And, FNAWS has been orderd to pay attorney and court costs, which will likely run in to the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

In a move that seems intended to rub the nose of FNAWS in the decision, the court ordered them to post the ruling on their website. The ruling can be found at http://www.fnaws.org/forms/Injunction.pdf.

On their website, GSCO had a relatively concise comment on the outcome of the litigation they had initiated: "The GSCO board of directors is pleased with the outcome and wishes to go forward to fullfill the mission of GSCO. The board remains committed to work in harmony with all wildlife organizations to accomplish our mutual goals."

FNAWS has made little public comment about the outcome, but, prior to the verdict, offered this detailed discussion of the lawsuit from their point of view:
http://www.fnaws.org/forms/History_and_Status_of_GSCO_Lawsuit.pdf

GSCO defines itself as "an organization of hunter/conservationists dedicated to improving and perpetuating wild sheep and goat populations worldwide."

Similarly, FNAWS defines itself as existing to "promote and enhance increasing populations of indigenous wild sheep...."

To me, it remains unclear how wild sheep and goat populations benefit from years of bickering, a contentious split in the sheep hunting community, $1.9 million dollars out of the pockets of FNAWS, and hundreds of thousands of dollars in court costs going down the drain.

FNAWS may have lost the suit brought by GSCO, but the real losers in this sad story are sheep and sheep hunters.


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