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Alphabet Antagonism for Ovitz Agency, Texas Firm

July 11, 2001|MEG JAMES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Some angry words are being exchanged over three simple letters.

A Texas-based sports marketing firm named Advantage Marketing Group is in a legal tangle with Michael Ovitz's Artists Management Group over who owns the rights to the initials "AMG."

"They fired the first shot, but this is more than a trademark issue," Ladd Biro, executive vice president of Advantage Marketing of Irving, Texas, said Tuesday. "We have a lot of goodwill in our name, and we're going to defend it."

The legal battle began May 31 in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, when Artists Management Group of Los Angeles sued Advantage Marketing over the right to the AMG initials.

Artists Management, which has been using the initials since 1999, represents entertainers and athletes and provides business and management consulting services.

Before the Los Angeles agency started, its attorneys conducted a trademark search, court records show.

"The search basically showed that AMG had been abandoned, so we applied to use it and we've been using it ever since," said Debbie Smith, an Artists Management spokeswoman. Ovitz was traveling Tuesday and was unavailable for comment.

The Texas group counters that it has been using the initials AMG since 1985 and has built a successful franchise in the sports entertainment world. The firm represents Dallas Cowboys running back Emmitt Smith and New York Jets running back Curtis Martin, Biro said, and has had marketing deals with Major League Baseball and the National Football League.

Advantage Marketing filed a counterclaim against Artists Management last week. The Artists Management trademark applications are on hold until the squabble is resolved.

Advantage Marketing says it approached Ovitz's firm in February 2000 after it discovered that Artists Management was making a foray into sports entertainment, court records show. The two sides were in negotiations until Artists Management filed suit, Biro said.

"They pulled the rug out from under us," Biro said. "We feel that they are trying to steamroll us because we're a small agency. But we've been in business 16 years and we're very successful and profitable."

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