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Trademark board says Ross abandonment trial can proceed

Published December 2, 2019

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (BRAIN) — A U.S. Patent and Trademark Office board will continue to review a petition by members of the Ross family to regain ownership of the Ross Bicycles trademark, which the family members claim has been abandoned by its current registrant.

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Century Sports, Inc., the registrant, had asked the board to suspend its proceedings while it sued the Rosses for trademark infringement. 

Century says it continues to use the Ross name, selling and shipping hundreds of Ross bikes to a wholesaler as recently as July 2019. Century filed the infringement suit in August, charging that Randy Ross, Sean Ross, and their company, Ross Bicycles LLC, are using the trademark to market a forthcoming line of bikes

Generally trademarks can be ruled abandoned if they have not been used in commerce for three or more years. 

Michael Webster, the trademark board’s interlocutory attorney, ruled that the cancelation proceedings are too far along to be suspended now because of the related civil suit.

“It is the policy of the board to suspend proceedings when the parties are involved in a civil action which may be dispositive of or have a bearing on the board case … In this case, (Century’s) motion to suspend was filed after the trial periods ended and almost a month after (Ross Bicycles LLC) filed its brief on the case,” Webster wrote in an order released Monday.

“Accordingly, the motion to suspend pending disposition of the civil action is denied. Because the briefing periods have closed the case will be submitted for final decision,” Webster concluded. He did not indicate when that decision should be expected.

Century has submitted exhibits to the board showing that it has continued to market and sell Ross bikes, including making presentations to a Walmart buyer recently. 

The Rosses have argued that much of that evidence is inadmissible for procedural reasons. They also argue that even despite the recent activity shown in the exhibits, the trademark’s previous owner, Rand International, had abandoned it at least from 2010-2013, and any recent activity would not revive the mark. 

The original Ross bicycle company dates to 1940 when Albert Ross — Randy Ross’s grandfather — founded Ross Galvanizing Works in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood. The family lost control of the company in 1988 when it went bankrupt and its assets were acquired by Rand International, then owned by the Goldmeier family. Randy’s father, Sherwood Ross, went to work for the new owners, but Randy did not. 

The Goldmeiers later sold Rand, but then sued to force the company into Chapter 7 bankruptcy when the new owner failed to make payments. They took the Ross trademark and other assets back in the Chapter 7 settlement in 2013. 

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