Make us your home page
Instagram

Tampa International sues over Hernando airport's use of the word 'Tampa'

TAMPA — The two airports are more than 40 miles apart.

One serves commercial airlines, greets tens of thousands of passengers annually and offers international flights.

The other serves only small, private planes and business aircraft.

But just in case someone confuses Tampa International Airport with the recently renamed Brooksville-Tampa Regional Airport, the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority board voted Thursday to sue the Hernando County Aviation Authority in federal court.

"(They're taking) advantage of the value we've built in our name," Tampa airport attorney Gigi Rechel told the board. "We need to protect the goodwill and value we have built into our name."

At Rechel's urging, the board unanimously adopted a resolution to bypass a Florida statute that requires two governmental bodies to enter into mediation before suing each other and file suit immediately. She also urged board members not to make any public comments that could affect legal proceedings, so the board passed the resolution without comment as well.

The suit was filed against the Hernando County Commission and the Hernando County Aviation Authority soon after the board's vote Thursday.

"We have invested a lot of time and money building our brand and reputation, so it's important that we protect the Tampa airport name," said Tampa International spokeswoman Janet Zink. "The name the Hernando County airport has chosen is confusing and misleading. The Hernando airport isn't in Tampa. It isn't even in Hillsborough County."

The resolution — on which the board was briefed before the meeting, but did not actually read — said that Tampa International has spent "millions of dollars" to develop a reputation that travelers associate with "Tampa airport."

The new name for the old Hernando County Airport could cause Tampa International "immediate and irreparable harm" because the Hernando Aviation Authority renamed the airport "for the purposes of marketing, developing and attracting business."

In fact, the Tampa airport has been working to trademark the names "Tampa International Airport" and "Tampa Airport" since 2010 and has already paid the Tampa law firm of Gray Robinson $36,000 to that end.

Last month, a limousine company's challenge to the Tampa International Airport trademark was dismissed, and the airport is waiting for the trademarked name to be officially registered.

TIA said it has "common law rights" to those names and to the name of its subsidiary facility, Tampa Executive Airport. That facility, like Hernando's airport, is a general aviation facility.

Rechel told the Hillsborough board that she recently met with Hernando County attorneys to discuss the matter.

"Our discussions were for naught," she said. "There was no attempt to find common ground."

That meeting took place before the Hernando County Commission unanimously voted Oct. 23 to re-brand the airport and tie it in with its surrounding industrial, corporate and rail business interests.

Renaming the Brooksville airport was first considered in July, but Hernando County delayed taking any action so it could meet with the legal adviser to the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority board, which oversees Tampa International's operations.

However, when Hernando commissioners voted to change the name last month, County Attorney Garth Coller said that any notion that its airport and Tampa International could be confused was "absurd."

"You can't trademark a place name,'' Coller said.

He also advised Hernando commissioners that the county would be in a strong legal position if the matter ended up in court.

On Thursday, after learning of the lawsuit, Coller said, "Now that they've done that, there is nothing I can say because of pending litigation.''

Michael McHugh, Hernando County's business development manager, and Gary Schraut, chairman of the Hernando Aviation Authority, both also declined comment.

Hernando Commissioner Dave Russell, however, said the lawsuit was "just ridiculous.

"I think that they're full of it," Russell said.

Russell, who is the commission's liaison to the airport, said, "They have to have better things to do than to pick on Hernando County for essentially just claiming its relationship with Tampa.''

County officials spent months deciding on a new name that would be the first step in re-branding the airport and surrounding area. They noted that anytime someone asks them where Hernando County is, the answer is that it is north of Tampa.

"It's wrong what they're doing,'' Russell said. "It's just unfortunate that both sides will now have to expend monies and time and effort that we frankly don't have to waste on something so frivolous.''

Hernando's re-branding efforts haven't completely taken off yet. According to its website, the airport is still called the Hernando County Airport. But the lawsuit notes that the airport has begun to use the new name on social media sites.

Staff writer Barbara Behrendt contributed to this report.

Tampa International sues over Hernando airport's use of the word 'Tampa' 11/01/12 [Last modified: Thursday, November 1, 2012 8:32pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Black entrepreneur says city stiffing him on project after he endorsed Rick Baker

    News

    ST. PETERSBURG — A prominent African-American resident says his endorsement of mayoral candidate Rick Baker has led city officials to freeze him out of a major construction project along the historic "Deuces" stretch of 22nd Street S.

  2. Sen. Nelson urges FEMA to examine high number of denied flood claims

    Banking

    Sen. Bill Nelson urged FEMA on Tuesday to ensure fairness, proper oversight and transparency in processing Hurricane Irma aid following a report by the Palm Beach Post that 90 percent of Irma claims under the National Flood Insurance Program had been denied.

    Sen. Bill Nelson is calling for FEMA to ensure the flood claims process post-Hurricane Irma is fair and ethical following reports that 90 percent of claims under the National Flood Insurance Program were denied. | [Times file photo]
  3. Amazon expands in Tampa with Pop-Up shop in International Plaza

    Retail

    TAMPA — A new retailer known largely for its online presence has popped up at International Plaza and Bay Street.

    Shoppers walk past the new Amazon kiosk Tuesday at the International Plaza in Tampa. The kiosk, which opened last month, offers shoppers an opportunity to touch and play with some of the products that Amazon offers.
[CHRIS URSO   |   Times]

  4. Study: Florida has fourth-most competitive tax code

    Banking

    Florida's tax code is the fourth most competitive in the country, according to a study released Tuesday by nonprofit group Tax Foundation.

    Florida has the fourth-most competitive tax code, a study by the Tax Foundation said. Pictured is  Riley Holmes, III, H&R Block tax specialist, helping a client with their tax return in April. | [SCOTT KEELER, Times]
  5. Trigaux: On new Forbes 400 list of U.S. billionaires, 35 now call Florida their home

    Personal Finance

    The latest Forbes 400 richest people in America was unveiled Tuesday, with 35 billionaires on that list calling Florida home. That's actually down from 40 Florida billionaires listed last year when a full 10 percent listed declared they were Floridians by residence.

    Edward DeBartolo, Jr., shopping center developer and  former San Francisco 49ers Owner, posed with his bronze bust last year during the NFL Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony in Canton, Ohio. DeBartolo remains the wealthiest person in Tampa Bay according to the Forbes 400 list released Tuesday. 
[Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images]