House of Bryant sues over Lake City-to-Rocky Top name change
The Gatlinburg-based publisher of the iconic bluegrass song “Rocky Top” has filed a federal lawsuit seeking to prevent Lake City from changing its name to Rocky Top, a move widely seen as a necessary first step in an ambitious plan to turn Lake City into a tourist destination. House of Bryant Publications was founded by the sons of the song’s writers, Boudleaux and Felice Bryant and owns numerous Rocky Top-related trademarks. In a press release issued Tuesday by Nashville law firm Waddey Patterson, attorneys say they believe that the proposed name change is “an attempt to unfairly exploit the fame and goodwill of House of Bryant’s intellectual property.” “The Bryant sons would have preferred not to have to resort to a lawsuit to protect their parents’ legacy, but their efforts to reach an understanding with Lake City have been unsuccessful,” the press release said. “Recent actions toward authorizing Lake City’s name change in the Tennessee General Assembly have left House of Bryant no choice but to commence a lawsuit. The Bryants hope that this matter can be resolved quickly.” The lawsuit was filed Monday in US District Court in Knoxville and names Lake City, the Rocky Top Tennessee Marketing and Manufacturing Company, County Commissioner Tim Isbel, Franklin resident Brad Coriel, Lake City businessman Mark Smith, Lake City Vice Mayor Michael Lovely and Knoxville businessman Carl “Buddy” Warren as defendants. The suit is seeking an injunction prohibiting the name change and alleges trademark infringement, false advertising, unlawful taking, deceptive trade practice, unfair competition and claims that allowing the town to rename itself Rocky Top would “cause dilution of the distinctive quality of [House of Bryant’s trademarks.] The suit also claims that the city is determined to change its name “due to [a] relative lack of industry, manufacturing, tourism, or any other employment base or economic driver.“ In November the Lake City Council unanimously approved drafting a private act recommending that the name be changed to Rocky Top, which developers say is an essential first step toward creating tourist attractions designed to take advantage of the town’s two exits off of I-75. Officials say that the project can not move forward without the name change due to its marketability.