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Tournament of Roses suing Pasadena over Rose Bowl naming rights

An aerial view of the 2017 Rose Bowl Game between USC and Penn State.
(Tournament of Roses / Getty Images)

The Pasadena Tournament of Roses Assn. filed suit Thursday to protect ownership of the Rose Bowl Game and Rose Bowl trademarks from the city of Pasadena.

The conflict between the long-time partners stems from the Tournament of Roses’ decision in December to move the College Football Playoff semifinal scheduled for the Rose Bowl to AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, due to Southern California’s stringent pandemic regulations and the CFP’s insistence that players’ families be allowed to attend. The case was filed with the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California

The Master License Agreement between the Tournament of Roses and Pasadena requires the game to be held in the Rose Bowl stadium except in the event of a “force majeure” that allows for the Tournament of Roses to move the game. The only other time the game has not been played in Pasadena was in 1941 due to the advent of World War II.

Justin Herbert, a hopeful for NFL offensive rookie of the year, already is working with his second head coach and offensive coordinator with the Los Angeles Chargers.

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“Although the dispute originated in the move of this year’s game to Arlington, Texas, as the result of the COVID-19 pandemic, a move agreed to by the city, it has persisted through the city’s continued insistence that it is the co-owner of the marks and that its consent is necessary to invoke the MLA’s ‘force majeure’ clause,” read a Tournament of Roses statement released Thursday night. “While the Association has no plans or desire to move the game in the future ... it does need a court’s clarification of its contractual and ownership rights.”

Tournament of Roses executive director David Eads said that the two parties have been communicating since the Jan. 1 game and have been unable to reach an agreement on an understanding of the ownership of the marks.

“That’s the reason for the filing,” he said. “We are not seeking monetary damage. We live and work in this community and have no desire to do harm to the city or community, but as a matter of business, it’s important that we clarify our rights.”


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