LITTLE ROCK (AP) — A businessman who said he owns trademarks to the lottery’s name can’t sue the Arkansas Lottery Commission, the state Supreme Court ruled Thursday.
In a 4-3 decision, the high court reversed a lower court’s decision and dismissed a lawsuit from Ed Dozier’s company, Alpha Marketing, against the lottery commission. The court said the commission is a state entity entitled to sovereign immunity, which prohibits lawsuits against the state.
"Because a judgment for Alpha would operate to control the action of the State or subject it to liability, the suit is one against the State and is barred by the doctrine of sovereign immunity," Justice Josephine Linker Hart wrote in the majority opinion. Justices Donald Corbin, Paul Danielson and Courtney Hudson Goodson dissented.
Alpha Marketing said it owned the trademarks for the terms "Arkansas Lottery" and "Arkansas Lotto" before the state began selling lottery tickets in 2009.
The company said it began using those terms in 1994, registering both trademarks with the Secretary of State in 2007, according to the Supreme Court’s decision. It also said it registered "Lottery Arkansas" in 2009 and had used that mark since 2007, according to the Supreme Court’s decision.
Voters approved a constitutional amendment in 2008 creating the games to fund college scholarships.
Alpha Marketing sued in 2010, asking a court to find that its trademarks are valid and that it owns the exclusive right to the use of its trademarks in Arkansas. The company also sought "monetary damages in the form of lost profits stemming from the alleged trademark infringement," according to Thursday’s Supreme Court opinion.
Alpha Marketing’s lawyer, David Gernsher, declined to comment Thursday morning, saying he hadn’t seen the court’s decision. He didn’t return a phone message left Thursday afternoon.
Lottery Director Bishop Woosley said he hopes the court’s decision ends the ongoing trademark battle.
"There may be some other course of action that these individuals try and take against us, but for now, we’re hopeful that this will put it to bed," Woosley said.