- Susan Hauser
- Portland Tribune - News
• A Portland man goes up against HBO over ownership of a boxing slogan
In boxing parlance, a fighter who never gives up, even against a daunting foe, is said to have 'heart.'
John Brune has heart but, some might say, not the chance of a snowball in hell in his fight against HBO.
Just as the huge entertainment conglomerate is coming to Portland to broadcast the Roy Jones Jr.-Clinton Wood fight Saturday, Brune is preparing for Round 2 of his trademark violation lawsuit.
It seems Brune originated the slogan 'The Heart and Soul of Boxing' for boxing manager Mike 'Motormouth' Morton in 1994.
Morton, who lives in Portland, is a former vinyl siding salesman who has been managing boxers Ñ six of them contenders for world championship titles Ñ since 1935. Brune, a Milwaukie resident who has a background in advertising and entertainment, partnered with Morton in the early '90s to promote Morton's management services.
In his suit, filed in New York on July 18, Brune contends that Time Warner Entertainment Co., HBO's parent, infringed upon the slogan, which Brune registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in March 2000. HBO later sought to trademark the same slogan Ñ which it continues to use widely in connection with its boxing broadcasts and related products Ñ but was turned down.
Brune first learned about the cable channel's use of the slogan in 1999. He is pretty sure he knows what inspired it.
'I sent ads (for Morton's management services) to all the broadcasting firms, from Fox to ESPN to HBO and Showtime,' Brune recalled. 'The first time I sent HBO my ad with 'The Heart and Soul of Boxing' was about 1994. They responded in a letter thanking me. They acknowledged that they got it.'
Brune's attorney, Michael Lennon of the New York firm Baker Botts, said Brune's suit was filed before the World Boxing Council championship fight was scheduled to take place in Portland and to be televised by HBO.
'It is certainly unusual that they're coming right into Portland and using the mark that they're being challenged on,' said Lennon, who works in the firm's Houston office.
Brune said he, Morton and their line of apparel Ñ which includes T-shirts, tank tops, sweatpants and sweatshirts with the 'Heart and Soul of Boxing' slogan prominently displayed Ñ would be highly visible at Saturday's Rose Garden bouts.
'One of the big problems is that a lot of people have confused HBO's and my work,' Brune said. 'Though people wear my apparel, a lot of the time they don't know if it's HBO or me. But they (HBO) are going to be coming to town with their banners and other advertising and other forms of media. It's going to be interesting.'
Brune, 49, said he came up with the words 'heart and soul of boxing' as an apt description of Morton, whom he had admired since childhood. Brune, along with several of his siblings, was a song-and-dance performer on Portland radio and television. He got to meet Morton at a television station where Morton Ñ who won't reveal his age Ñ was filming one of his commercials.
Brune, in an imitation of Morton's Brooklyn accent, recited the commercial, which in the '60s was as familiar as Tom Peterson and Scott Thomason commercials are today: 'This is Mike Morton from Larger Construction Co. Give me a call Ñ I'll come out, no charge to you. We'll have a cup of coffee, and don't forget the cream and sugar.'
Brune recalled, 'To meet him was like meeting someone important, like (local TV clown) Rusty Nails or something.'
Brune established a career in Los Angeles as a writer for TV, music videos, films and advertising. In the '90s, he and Morton Ñ whose rapid-fire speech inspired the flamboyant boxing promoter Don King to dub him 'Motormouth' Ñ connected again through their mutual interest in boxing.
'Michael was the heart and soul of boxing to me,' Brune said. 'He just lives and breathes boxing.'
In regard to Brune's lawsuit, HBO spokesman Ray Stallone said: 'We will vigorously defend the case. We believe the case is without merit.'
Lennon responded: 'We have a trademark that's registered with the United States trademark office, and they use a slogan that's exactly the same. Them saying that it's without merit strikes me as a little bit strong.'
The attorney said statistics show that about 95 percent of federal court cases settle, and that is what he expects for the outcome. The next step in the process, however, is discovery, when both parties reveal pertinent information and lay their cards on the table.
Meanwhile, Brune bravely dons his 'Heart and Soul of Boxing' T-shirt and continues sparring with the corporate giant.
'There are certainly David and Goliath elements to this,' Lennon said. 'Mr. Brune doesn't have the corporate stature of Time Warner.'
But he does have heart.