A Song Worth Fighting About
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (CN) - A small Tennessee town can change its name to Rocky Top to try to draw tourists, despite a lawsuit from the heirs of the couple who wrote the song of the same name, the unofficial fight song of the University of Tennessee, a federal judge ruled.
"Rocky Top" - one of Tennessee's eight official state songs - was written in 1967 by Felice and Boudleaux Bryant. It's been covered by a panoply of country singers, and has been the University of Tennessee Volunteers' unofficial fight song since the early 1970s.
Lake City, a town of 1,856 north of Knoxville, asked the state in November 2013 to change its name to Rocky Top, in a search for tourists.
According to U.S. District Judge Thomas Varlan's 32-page ruling, the City Council voted to change the town's name "due to 'the influence of members of the board of directors of [Rocky Top Marketing], who promised lavish development, investment, and construction if the city were to rename itself'. Those developments include spending an estimated $147.425 million to construct, in four phases, a 3-D interactive theater, a train ride, a laser-tag arena, a 1,500-seat theater, a Rocky Top Sweets & Candies Emporium, various merchandising (clothing, toys, books, etc.), a river-pirate themed restaurant, a water park, a train depot, a loading dock and shopping center, a functioning train called the Rocky Top Express that will travel to the University of Tennessee during football season, a hotel and banquet hall, a Rocky Top sports arena, an office and administrative building, and an amusement park." (Parentheses and brackets as in complaint; citation to original lawsuit omitted.)
But House of Bryant Publications, run by the sons of the songwriters, sued to try to block the name change, claiming it would dilute the value of their trademarks. The trademarks, filed last year, are on "a variety of trinkets," the Knoxville News-Sentinel reported this week in a story on the judicial ruling.
Varlan ruled that the publishing house would not suffer irreparable harm if the city is allowed to change its name. Any such injury, Varlan wrote, is merely "speculative."
"Given that the likelihood of plaintiff suffering any harm as a result of the developer defendants' conduct is speculative and uncertain, rather than certain and immediate, the Court finds that plaintiff has not made the requisite showing of irreparable harm absent injunctive relief against the developer defendants," Varlan wrote.
He denied the Bryants' request for an injunction.