On behalf of client GolfClub LLC, which owns the GOLFPASS platform, Joshpe Mooney Paltzik LLP has sued golf mega-star Rory McIlroy, NBC, Golf Channel, and GolfNow for misappropriating the GOLFPASS name in violation of the Lanham Act and for monopolizing the market for digital tee time booking in violation of antitrust laws. According to GolfClub, and its founder and CEO, Chris Silano, McIlroy, NBC, and Golf Channel knowingly took the name GOLFPASS despite the fact that Silano’s company had been using it in the marketplace for over a year prior and had established trademark rights. In the NBC and Golf Channel press release announcing the launch of GOLFPASS in February of 2019, McIlory, who is one of the top-ranked ranked golfers in the world and a four-time major winner, is described as the “Founding Partner.”
GolfClub’s GOLFPASS, on the other hand, is a United States Golf Association official golf club, and its partners with local golf courses and allows customers to book tee times at courses through a mobile application. According to GolfClub’s complaint, as soon as Rory McIlroy and NBC launched their platform, consumers and potential partners immediately began confusing the two platforms to GolfClub’s detriment. Silano regularly started receiving a barrage of emails from angry customers complaining about the McIlory and NBC service and app.
Even NBC itself has confused the two, as it recently tagged GolfClub’s GOLFPASS social media account when it meant to tag the McIlroy/NBC version. According to Silano, the confusion has devastated the business he has been trying to build. “Building a technology start-up that helps revive the great game of golf and small business golf courses around the country has been a dream of mine. Rory McIlroy’s and NBC’s use of my business name has effectively destroyed my business, and I am just asking that they not use my name.”