City of Rocky Top settles suit with song copyright holders

AP News
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Posted: Feb 08, 2016 4:47 PM

ROCKY TOP, Tenn. (AP) — The city of Rocky Top has settled a lawsuit with the copyright holders of the bluegrass song the town is named after.

Rocky Top changed its name from Lake City in 2014 after developers promised the new name would entice them to build a massive tourist complex in the former coal mining town of about 1,800 people.

The idea was that visitors would associate the town with the popular bluegrass standard that declares, "Rocky Top, you'll always be home, sweet home, to me. Good ol' Rocky Top. Rocky Top, Tennessee."

That plan didn't sit well with House of Bryant Publications, which owns trademarks for the use of the name Rocky Top on everything from T-shirts and baseball caps to baby blankets and Christmas ornaments.

Last month, the city of Rocky Top and House of Bryant agreed to a settlement in which the city can use Rocky Top trademarks for noncommercial purposes only — such as in support of the fire department or library.

Attorney Nathan Rowell represented the city. He said Rocky Top could sell trademarked items, as long as any money raised went to the city.

A separate settlement with the development group that proposed the tourist complex, Rocky Top Tennessee Marketing and Manufacturing, is still under negotiation.

The development group includes current Rocky Top Mayor Michael Lovely and Anderson County Commissioner Tim Isbel, who said he couldn't comment on the status of the tourist development because of the lawsuit.

He said an announcement would be forthcoming soon and characterized the negotiations as "positive."

The 2014 name change was the second time the former coal mining town changed its name in an attempt to change its fortunes. Rocky Top was called Coal Creek until the 1930s. Then town officials decided to call it Lake City to capitalize on their proximity to Norris Lake. Despite the name, there was no lake in Lake City.