A few weeks back, the Minnesota Vikings sued Wells Fargo, accusing the bank of trying “photo bomb” the team’s new stadium. Wells has since fired back, calling the whole thing “far-fetched.”
Quick recap of this case: The Vikings are building a fancy new stadium and have sold the naming rights to U.S. Bank. To preserve the value of those naming rights, the team made deals with all the owners of the neighboring buildings to determine where and how they could put up signage on these properties.
This includes the couple of buildings that Wells Fargo has next to the stadium site. The bank has since put illuminated Wells Fargo logos on those two 17-story towers. These aren’t huge, upright, standing signs that can be seen from the ground. Instead, these new signs can only be spotted in aerial images.
Regardless, the Vikings contend that the signs violate the bank’s contract with the team and are an attempt to “photo bomb” the new stadium, which will be the site of the Super Bowl in early 2018. They are seeking an immediate injunction against the bank.
In its response [PDF], Wells mocks what it sees as the team’s rush to expedite this matter and turn it into something bigger than it is.
“This is a straightforward contractual dispute about signs,” reads the response, “not an emergency requiring the extraordinary remedy of injunctive relief.”
The bank also scoffs at the team’s claim of being injured by the signs, calling it a “speculative, never-before-recognized form of irreparable injury,” for a stadium that won’t see active use until next August.
The response contends that the Vikings waited until the signs had been in place — but not yet lit up — for months before filing its complaint. And if it’s just a matter of whether the signs should be illuminated, Wells doesn’t understand why the team is now demanding that both of the 56′ x 56′ signs be covered up in a solid-colored tarp so that no part of the signs can be read.
In addition to the illumination, the Vikings have a problem with the fact that the lettering on the otherwise flat signs is raised, arguing that it “creates a completely different image” than if the sign were flush to the roof.
Reading the Wells response, you can almost hear the bank’s lawyers laughing.
They point out that no one on the ground could possibly see the signs, and that “when the signs are viewed from directly overhead, it would be impossible to tell that the signage is raised at all. Tellingly, the Vikings do not even attempt to explain why it is that the presence of raised lettering on the roof-top signage… will harm, dilute, or distract from the ‘image’ of the Stadium or how it is that any such harm will come about.”
The bank says that the Vikings’ theory of harm is “premised on the notion that an undetermined number of persons viewing the Stadium webcam can navigate to the aerial view of the City of Minneapolis, direct the camera to the Wells Fargo buildings, zoom in on the roof of the buildings, and that the Vikings’ interest in the image of the still-incomplete Stadium will somehow be forever harmed because the Wells Fargo lettering is slightly raised from the surface of the roof. This theory is, at a minimum, far-fetched.”
The bank says the team agreed to those signs, which are just as likely to show up in blimp photos of the stadium:
In a statement to the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal, the Vikings maintain that it has a signed agreement with the bank to place limited, non-illuminated signs on the roofs of these two buildings but that “Wells Fargo violated this written agreement with the installation of mounted, and significantly different, rooftop signage. Its action is a breach of contract and adversely affects the image of U.S. Bank Stadium. Given that the original agreement specifically gives both parties the right to seek an injunction in the matter of a dispute, the Vikings have no choice but to pursue this legal remedy in order to enforce the contract.”