After months of countersuits and allegations, the St. Petersburg Times and the Tampa Tribune are headed to mediation in an attempt to resolve their lawsuits over the name of the Times' daily tabloid.
The two heavyweight daily newspapers are squabbling over the Times use of the name, "Tampa Bay Times" for its giveaway tabloid, also dubbed tbt*. The St. Pete paper wants to be able to use the full name on its masthead, as well as in marketing efforts.
But the Trib sued in February and won a preliminary injunction on the grounds that it used to publish a daily afternoon newspaper called "The Tampa Times" and readers would be confused by a similarly named product. The Tampa Times folded in 1982, but the Trib has, on and off, kept the name on part of its morning newspaper.
Tampa lawyer and mediator Peter Grilli will meet with both sides on Oct. 30, according to a July order signed by federal District Judge James S. Moody Jr.
The Tampa Bay Times/tbt* experiment is crucial to the Times in two regards: It represents a successful push into the world of the tabloid. Second, it is giving the Times a long-sought foothold in Tampa.
The Times countersued in March, alleging that the Tribune was "cybersquatting" by registering Internet domain names for tampabaytimes.net, tampabaytimes.biz and tampabaytimes.info in an effort to hjack readers to the Trib's Friday Extra section, which carried the name "Tampa Bay Times" until 2001.
Most recently, the Tribune has complained to Judge Moody that the Times has violated the terms of the preliminary injunction by using the name "Tampa Bay Times" in radio advertising. The Times has denied violating the order, saying that a new employee's error resulted in the use of the name on air on only a handful of occasions.
If mediation fails, the case is set for an April 2007 trial.
The Tribune, in the meantime, has launched its own tabloid faux-alt product, a weekly called Orange. No word on whether the University of Texas' student magazine of the same name plans to get in on the litigation.