Last month, county commissioners voted to rename Hernando County's airport the Brooksville-Tampa Regional Airport.
They did so knowing that an attorney for the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority threatened a lawsuit if they used the word "Tampa" in the title because it is too closely associated with Tampa International Airport.
The threat became reality Thursday when the HCAA filed suit against Hernando County in the Middle District of Florida, Tampa.
County Commissioner Dave Russell called the suit ridiculous and frivolous, especially since Hernando County is part of the Tampa Bay region.
"These guys are really reaching," Russell said.
Russell said Hernando has as much right to the Tampa name as anyone else.
"This is so frivolous," he said. "They have better things to do with their time and so do we — attracting new business and not quibbling over minutiae."
Russell said the board needs to be firm in its commitment to rebrand the airport.
"If we don't stand up for ourselves now, we'll just continue to be pushed around and we can't have that," he said.
But Commission Chairman Wayne Dukes said that, while he likes the new name, he's not willing to spend taxpayer money to defend an expensive lawsuit.
"I don't mind playing this thing out," Dukes said. "But if it ends up costing us money, then we may have to re-examine the name."
Or, if push comes to shove, the Hernando Aviation Authority can foot the bill using airport reserve funds, Dukes said.
Economic Development Manager Mike McHugh has said the whole idea behind renaming the airport is to better describe its growth and significance as a prime business location. The Tampa identification will help out-of-state clients realize the proximity to Hillsborough County, he said.
But the lawsuit claims the defendants — the board of Hernando County commissioners and the Hernando Aviation Authority — is using a "false designation of origin, false advertising, Florida common law trademark infringement and Florida trademark dilution."
The Hillsborough County's trademark rights have been in continuous use for more than a half-century and the HCAA has used the Tampa Airport designation for more than 15 years to identify commercial aviation facilities and related services, the lawsuit said.
"In contrast, the (Hernando County Airport) is nearly 50 miles away from Tampa's larger, international airport," the lawsuit said.
The suit said consumers "are likely to be confused between the services offered by Hillsborough Aviation Authority and the services being offered by the defendants."
Assistant County Attorney Jon Jouben said he could not comment on pending litigation.