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Turtle Creek Sportswear owner admits Steelers angle

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Thursday, Jan. 27, 2011
 

A Penn Hills sportswear manufacturer admitted in federal court Wednesday that his unlicensed T-shirts and hoodies are intended to make money off the popularity of the Pittsburgh Steelers and some of the team's players.

NFL Properties LLC and Pittsburgh Steelers Sports Inc. sued Nicholas Wohlfarth of Monroeville, owner of Turtle Creek Sportswear, in 2005 for trademark infringement. They asked U.S. District Judge Terrence McVerry to find Wohlfarth and his company in contempt of a court order that he stop selling items similar to official Steelers merchandise.

Wohlfarth claims his company's latest products don't violate the 2005 order because they don't use the word "Steelers" and don't use the full image of the three diamond-shaped hypocycloids that are part of the team logo.

His clothing carried a disclaimer that it wasn't licensed by the Steelers or the NFL, he said during a hearing on the NFL's contempt motion.

Wohlfarth testified that the hypocycloids were associated with the steel industry before they became part of the Steelers' logo.

Under cross-examination, however, he admitted that he markets clothing in black and gold because those are the team colors and those colors have nothing to do with the steel industry. One garment said "Psycho Ward," carried the number 86 and had an image of a football player. Another had the number 43 and an image of a football player and said "Beware the Hair."

Wohlfarth admitted these were references to popular Steelers players Hines Ward and Troy Polamalu, and the items are deliberately designed to "create the thought of the Steelers."

Jeremy Feigelson, one of the attorneys representing NFL Properties, said Wohlfarth is clearly in contempt of the order and his merchandise "has everything to do with the Steelers and nothing to do with the steel industry."

William Helzlsouer, Wohlfarth's attorney, said his client operated in good faith.

Mark Hart, director of strategic planning and development, said after the hearing that the Steelers have an obligation to protect the team's and the NFL's logos and other identifiers.

NFL Properties and the Steelers asked McVerry to issue a new order that would carry a fine of $500 per day for every day Wohlfarth violates the order. McVerry said he plans to issue his ruling soon.

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