Wells Fargo Must Remove Signs Built To “Photo Bomb” New Minnesota Vikings Stadium

Our brief regional nightmare is over, after a federal court ordered Wells Fargo to take down two rooftop signs erected to cash in on the impending media coverage of the new Minnesota Vikings stadium in Minneapolis.

When the NFL season kicks off this summer, the Vikings will debut their new digs. U.S. Bank has paid a significant fortune for the naming rights of the angular stadium, which includes having the bank’s logo splashed on the building’s sides and roof.

When constructing the stadium, the Vikings made deals with the landlords of surrounding buildings — including Wells Fargo, which has two new buildings adjacent to the stadium site — that limits competing signage on these structures.

However, Wells went ahead and built two large, illuminated bank logos on the roofs of their buildings. The Vikings said this violated their agreement and were a blatant attempt to “photo bomb” U.S. Bank Stadium with Wells Fargo advertising, but Wells countered that because the signs were flat and only visible from the sky, they were not in violation of the deal.

Shortly before Christmas, the team sued Wells Fargo, seeking an injunction against the continued use of these controversial signs.

The federal judge in the dispute didn’t grant the preliminary injunction request because the team hadn’t made a good enough case to show what sort of specific damage it would incur otherwise. Then in April, the judge directed both sides to just hash out a settlement already.

That didn’t happen, and yesterday the court granted summary judgment [PDF] in favor of the Vikings, ruling that Wells Fargo is liable for breach of contract because the contract it signed with the team “unambiguously prohibits the roof-top signs that Wells Fargo has installed on the Wells Fargo Towers.”

The team had originally signed off on a Wells Fargo signage plan that included perfectly flat, un-illuminated rooftop signs. The bank argued that this plan never explicitly stated that the signs could not be illuminated. However, the court pointed out that this same plan specifically mentioned the illumination of other Wells Fargo logos elsewhere on the building, so not describing these signs as illuminated in the plan was the same as saying they would not be lit-up.

The bank also claimed that the rooftop signs were within the scope of the agreed-upon plan because they looked just like the signs depicted in the drawings approved by the team. Once again, the judge disagreed, pointing to language in the agreement describing the rooftop signage as “Non-Mounted Skyview Graphic… Painted Roof Sign,” which can’t really be interpreted as being the same as a slightly raised, illuminated sign.

The court found that the Vikings has satisfied the Supreme Court’s test for granting a permanent injunction against these signs: That the WF signs posed the threat of irreparable injury; that money damages alone would not be a sufficient remedy; that the balance of harms weighed in the team’s favor; and that removing these signs would not be a disservice to the public interest.

Thus, Wells must remove the sign within 30 days, and the bank is prohibited from “installing or maintaining any other mounted or illuminated signs on the Wells Fargo Towers.” Additionally, the court granted the Vikings’ request that Wells Fargo compensate the team for reasonable attorney fees and costs.

[via StarTribune.com]