Wednesday, August 29, 2007

AT&T, NASCAR return to court on Sept. 18

The AT&T-NASCAR-Sprint legal saga is scheduled to continue Sept. 18 in U.S. District Court in Atlanta.

Judge Marvin Shoob, who awarded AT&T an injunction May 18 to allow AT&T's logos on the No. 31 Richard Childress Racing car driven by Jeff Burton, is scheduled to preside over another injunction hearing.

The U.S. Court of Appeals overturned his original injunction Aug. 13, and now AT&T is returning to the district court level in hopes of obtaining another injunction.

The original injunction was issued by Shoob, who used NASCAR's grandfather clause with RCR as part of its annual licensing agreement as the basis to award the injunction as a breach of contract between NASCAR and AT&T. He ruled NASCAR breached its grandfather clause that allowed Cingular (now AT&T after a merger) to remain a sponsor when Nextel (now Sprint Nextel) assumed the role as the series sponsor in 2004.

The appeals court then ruled that because NASCAR's grandfather clause was designed to benefit RCR and not necessarily Cingular, that AT&T could not sue NASCAR for breach of contract through the grandfather clause.

AT&T is now asking for the injunction under the legal theory that would conclude that AT&T had reasonable expectations to believe that it could change the logos and that it is an injustice to AT&T that it can't.

AT&T had argued that point during the original injunction hearing, but because Shoob ruled on the breach-of-contract portion of the claim, he did not rule on the other theory.

AT&T has already filed its motion seeking the injunction. It argues that in a meeting in June 2003 where NASCAR outlined the parameters of Cingular's sponsorship, the company was not told it could not change names in case of a merger. NASCAR, which has previously stated in several legal briefs that Cingular and AT&T were fully aware of NASCAR's policy that it couldn't change names, and Sprint Nextel have until Sept. 5 to respond.

The injunction phase is still separate from the trial phase of the case, where AT&T is suing for the permanent ability to display the logos while NASCAR has countersued AT&T for $100 million. No trial schedule has been set.

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