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Company's Free Advertising May Prove To Be Very Expensive

Posted on in Business Litigation

When it comes to effective advertising, most professionals agree that location is crucial. You need to put ads where they will be seen by the most people in order to get the maximum return on your investment.

But what happens if your business' advertising campaign interferes with the advertising rights that a rival company paid top dollar for? This scenario is currently playing out in court between Wells Fargo and an NFL franchise.

The Minnesota Vikings are currently building a new Stadium in downtown Minneapolis. Like most sports stadiums these days, this one will bear the name of a major corporation. U.S. Bank purchased the naming rights for a reported $220 million.

Near the new $1.1 billion stadium, Wells Fargo is building its own facility, an office complex with twin towers 17 stories tall. On the roof of the new complex is an illuminated Wells Fargo sign with raised letters. This poses a problem for the Vikings franchise because the Wells Fargo sign would appear in many pictures and videos of the stadium. News sources are saying that Well Fargo is trying to "photo bomb" U.S. Bank Stadium.

The two parties had a signage agreement in place as early as 2014, but the Vikings allege that the new WF sign violates that agreement (apparently because of the illumination and raised letters). They sued Wells Fargo in December and sought an injunction to have the offending signs immediately covered.

A judge recently refused to order the signs to be covered, but did allow the larger lawsuit to proceed. Interestingly, U.S. Bank is not a party to this lawsuit.

If Wells Fargo purposely chose a sign meant to capitalize on their proximity to the stadium, their plan was certainly a clever one. But will their free advertising be worth more money than they will need to spend defending themselves in court? Only time will tell.

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