Arkansas High court won't stop suit over lottery name

By Andrew DeMillo

Associated Press

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) -- The Arkansas Supreme Court has declined to stop a lawsuit filed by a Little Rock businessman who claims he owns the rights to the state lottery's name.

On Thursday, justices dismissed the appeal by the Arkansas Lottery Commission seeking to halt the lawsuit. Justices said a lower court did not rule on the lottery's claims that it has sovereign immunity because it's a state agency.

The ruling said the Supreme Court cannot consider the appeal until a Pulaski County judge has ruled on that issue.

"For some undisclosed reason, the circuit court neglected to rule on the issue of sovereign immunity, leaving the question to be decided on another day," said the opinion written by Justice Courtney Hudson Goodson.

Ed Dozier says he secured the trademarks to "Arkansas Lottery," "Arkansas Lotto," and "Lottery Arkansas" in 1994. The state's lottery began in 2009.

Before then, Dozier used the name for a promotion with a radio station and to sell novelty items. They included a T-shirt that said, "I'm Spending My Kids' Inheritance on the Arkansas Lotto."

Dozier has said he hasn't used the name since the attorney general's office sent a cease-and-desist letter to his firm in 2009. Dozier said he'd like to keep using the name to market lottery-related memorabilia such as T-shirts that winners could wear.

Assistant Attorney General Mark Ohrenberger told justices in oral arguments last month that the lottery is protected from a lawsuit by sovereign immunity because the Lottery Commission was established as a state agency. He rejected the description of the lottery as a for-profit business, noting that its net proceeds go toward college scholarships.

"That would be tantamount to saying the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration is a for-profit business because it collects taxes," he told the court.

Published: Fri, Jan 27, 2012