In a dispute over cable sports network acronyms, ESPN has
sued the upstart College Sports Production Network (CSPN) for trademark infringement.
The suit, filed last week in U.S. District Court for
Southern New York, claims Alabama-based CSPN's name infringes on the 24-hour national
sports network's trademark. ESPN is seeking injunctive relief and unspecified
damages, said sources close to the situation.
"We regret the need to take this action, but ESPN has
worked hard to build its brand and we feel very strongly about protecting it," an
ESPN spokesman said in a prepared statement. "We're not denying anyone the
opportunity to conduct business, but the name CSPN and its business are too close to
ESPN's to allow this to go unchallenged."
Owned by a group of Alabama businessmen, CSPN distributes
live and taped sports events from several colleges based in nine southeastern states.
Currently, the company has 600,000 full-time subscribers, but has distributed specific
events such as the recent NCAA Super Regional Baseball Tournament to as many as 3.5
Representatives from the network could not be reached for
comment at press time.
The lawsuit is the second major litigation effort from ESPN
this year. ESPN earlier this year filed suit against Major League Baseball after league
terminated its distribution deal with the network.
The league has since countersued ESPN, claiming the
network's attempt to move three Sunday night baseball telecasts to ESPN2 to make room
for its National Football League package was a breach of its current contract with ESPN,
which runs through 2002.