Tag Archives: MLB

Best of 2006: Trademark City

Originally posted 2015-01-19 19:30:38. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Trademark City

The Strategic Name Development blog reports that the naming rights to the New York Mets’ new baseball stadium have been sold to Citigroup. The stadium will be called “CitiField” and the privilege of that garish plug will cost Citigroup $20 million a year, or the cost of a grade-A free agent. The blog post has a great rundown on alternative “Citi” names that were considered, as well as a roundup of back-page and other learned reactions.



CitiGroup is itself a metropolis of trademark issues. The CitiGroup Center, which is right out the window of my office (over my shoulder in the picture above left), is a landmark building, i.e., a de facto trademark for the company on the New York skyline, of which it is one of the leading and tallest lights. In the picture below, taken from the east, you can see how its distinctive angles tower jauntily over the lovable rust-colored “lipstick”-shaped [former] LIKELIHOOD OF CONFUSION Building at 885 Third Avenue (below). But of course, buildings can’t really be trademarks, can they? If they can be, the CitiGroup Center is. Read More…

Major League Baseball – SDNY Balks?

SoxA potentially troubling (from the teams’ point of view) thought from the Southern District of New York in a case brought by Major League Baseball against a company selling beanbags with team names, colors and logos on them, reported by the NY Law Journal (subscription required):

The Court finds that a genuine issue of fact exists as to whether MLB Clubs’ trade dress has achieved a secondary meaning in the marketplace. As such, summary judgment on MLBP’s Lanham Act claim is inappropriate.

Wow. In other words, are the logos and team colors of the Yankees, Mets, Red Sox and other billion-dollar busineses protectable as trademarks? Think of the possibilities.

Full decision here.

Major League Baseball steals from customers

“If You Purchased MLB Game Downloads Before 2006, Your Discs/Files Are Now Useless; MLB Has Stolen Your $$$ And Claims “No Refunds”

Compelling blog post title, no?

So typical of the bloated steroid brains running that business. Yes, guys, you’ll always be able to do just whatever you want to fans, because your product is in unceasingly great demand. Just ask the record companies.

Billed hat tip to TechMeme.

Foul baller

Shoeless Joe Jackson

Say it ain't so, Joe!

A former major leaguer goes from giving up runs to running from the law. From pitch counts to multiple counts. From pitching and hitting to counterfeiting. From —

You get the pitcher.

The merger doctrine and copyright in data

In the New York Law Journal:

Copyright does not protect facts, but (with a few notable exceptions such as fashion design) it protects almost any kind of creative expression even if the amount of creativity is extremely small.

The U.S. Supreme Court has held that facts are discovered, not authored, and that a “modicum” of creativity is constitutionally required before copyright protection can be triggered – even if that creativity is only in the selection and arrangement of existing facts into a new work.2

The flip side of this is the so-called “merger doctrine.” Generally, if there is only one practical way to express a given fact, the fact and its expression are said to have “merged” and the expression will not be protected. The merger doctrine is entirely judge-made and varies in its particulars from court to court, but it is a reasonably well-established part of the copyright law.

Electronic commerce, and the electronic systems that track ordinary physical commerce, tend to bring these issues to the fore. Every transaction with an electronic component, whether it is online or in the real world, generates data that is stored somewhere. Sifting and sorting that data (a process called “data mining”) can yield extremely valuable statistics about individual market participants and the markets generally. Because these statistics are commercially valuable, market operators – from eBay and Amazon to the New York Stock Exchange to Las Vegas casinos – tend to want to own them, and the copyright law is the natural place to look for support.

But last month the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit had a chance to address these issues head-on and, although it chose a somewhat strained basis for doing so, it held decisively against copyright protection for that kind of data, despite its commercial value.

This article is dense, and the issues are complex. (He alludes to the disgusting Major League Baseball attempt to claim “ownership” in player stats, correctly decided against MLB but now on appeal.) But at least bookmark it, because if you practice IP litigation, you have a client who is, or who will soon be, trying to find a way to protect a data compilation based on some degree of creativity — or not — and, chances are, what the Second Circuit has to say about the matter, will matter.

Bad moments in lawyer advertising

Above the Law reports:

Belluck & Fox is a nine-attorney law firm in Manhattan. The firm worked out a deal with the radio station that broadcasts New York Yankees games, making it the official legal sponsor of Yankee radio broadcasts.

The folks at Belluck & Fox must have misread the contract though. They took the sponsorship a bit too far and transformed their HomeRunLegal.com site into a bonanza of Yankee paraphenalia, calling themselves the team’s official legal sponsor:

The site featured a photo of Yankee Stadium, a baseball emblazoned with the firm’s name, and a clipboard listing “Today’s Lineup” with such power hitters as “Mesothelioma & Asbestos Compensation,” “Car and Motorcycle Accident Claims,” and “Construction Accidents.” Festooned with the Yankees logo, it claimed the firm was the “official legal sponsor” of the Bronx Bombers.

This, as the appellate courts say, was error. Weren’t the terms of the “sponsorship” spelled out in the “sponsorship agreement”? Well, as the item says, they’re not that kind of lawyer. I am sure they are doing just fine.

Evidently, however, the kinder, gentler post-George Yankees were happy to resolve the matter with a simple phone call — meaning obviously the goons from MLB’s IP-obsessed front office were kept on the bench. (Via Overlawyered.)

This page may contain third party links which are in no way affiliated with or endorsed by this blog. Minor wording changes have been made to the original post as may be required.

Blawg Review # 242

Main lobby, Association of the Bar of the City of New York

House of the Association -- Association of the Bar of the City of New York

Welcome to Blawg Review.  Cold, rainy, prematurely wintry greetings from metropolitan New York.

No exclamation point.  It has been that kind of year, it seems.  Nothing depressing about it, or it shouldn’t be.  That’s just life, and in particular that’s the way life feels at that dreary moment when you’re living it clustered around the winter solstice.

Lobby and stairs, Newark historic courthouse

Historic Courthouse, Newark, NJ

And if I were perkily to emit that Chanukah, the festival of rededication, is “all about” pulling oneself up by one’s bootstraps in the face of dread and gloom, for of course a little light will banish a great deal of darkness, I would not be the first to say it; and it’s not as if cliché is too good for LIKELIHOOD OF CONFUSION®.

But no.  It is not going to be that kind of Chanukah Blawg Review this year.  Let’s instead think a little less loftily, but maybe more fruitfully, about where we are.  Where we’ve been since last Chanukah.  And what we’re doing, blawgily speaking.  And why.

Is there a Chanukah concept in that?  Rabbi Avraham Chaim Feuer says there is — and it seems to be a very appropriate one for this moment, for this blog, even, and for the constellations of blawgs that still form and swirl around us:

Only recently — barely a hundred years have elapsed since the invention of the lightbulb — has Edison’s genius transformed [mankind’s formerly] bleak [benighted] situation. Today, mankind’s blindness is banished by billions of powerful and enduring bulbs. Artificial light has become so economically feasible that even the poorest can afford to squander it. Everything glows in the Age of Illumination. . . .

Centuries ago, prior to the Age of Illumination, people did not waste light. A fire with no function was promptly extinguished, and the fuel was carefully hoarded. If the flames of the menorah burned constantly without apparent function, it must have been that this was not light made to shed external illumination, but rather to symbolize the inner glory associated with Godliness.

For this reason, it is prohibited, according to Halacha, or Judaic Law, to use Chanukah candles as illumination for any ordinary activities. Such utility would strip the candles of their essential message — that there is more than one kind of light, that of the soul besides that of the eyes.

“The time for lighting the Chanukah candles is from sunset until the time that the traffic ceases in the marketplace,” states the Talmud (Shabbos 21b).  As long as men are involved in the affairs of the marketplace, as long as they are engaged in the pursuit and purchase of all their eyes see and their hearts desire, then they are still in need of the lesson of the Chanukah menorah.

No doubt, our era is the age of the eye and the age of the market. This is self-evident and does not need further elaboration. When before in history has the consumer been flooded with such a staggering array of tempting products, wrapped in millions of dollars of “eye-catching” advertisement? When before has the human eye been so constantly exposed to the distracting sights of the stage, screen, and street? In the Age of Illumination, the outer lights have all but blotted out the inner lights.

It is time to gather around the . . .  candles of the menorah, and give the inner lights the opportunity to convey their soft, subtle, penetrating message.

So, let’s sit down — come in out of the wet; can I get you a hot drink?  No, no latkes, sorry — trying to stay away from the heavy stuff, since the operation.  We do have these nice dreidel-shaped cookies… here.  Say a brocha.  Nice.

Pillars at New York Supreme Court, New York County

New York State Supreme Court, 60 Centre Street

We can sit by the fire.

So, yes, last year at this season LIKELIHOOD OF CONFUSION® hosted Blawg Review for the second time.  It went over very well, and I’m grateful for the recognition.  At the end of the day (which comes mighty fast in mid-December) isn’t being noticed for having something to say why a person blogs?  It’s just that some of us need more of that than others, isn’t it? Read More…

MLB, IP piggies, strike again

Susan Scafidi writes about a guy who was stopped by Major League Baseball from selling “baseball shirts” that look like this (on the right):

Huh? Her take:

While typefaces themselves are not protected by copyright, their use is frequently an essential trademark element. MLB apparently claimed that Morris Levin’s deliberate invocation of the nation’s pastime, combined with his use of copycat lettering and color combinations, constituted trademark infringement. And, as the Smoking Gun noted, even Hillary’s official favorite teams — the Yankees and the Cubs — were Obamized.

I think this is bunk, mixed in with ju-u-u-u-u-ust enough truth. I had a very similar case, where my client’s shirts actually used the names of team cities along with the known team colors plus the style demonstrated above, but here “Obama,” not “Baltimore,” is what’s on the shirt. So I ask you: Does Major League Baseball own every color combination utilized by a major league team along with “baseball” lettering?

Preposterous. Now, in fact, if you look at the shirts over The Smoking Gun, which Susan links to, you’ll see that many of them go much further than the shirts shown above. So this, too, was one of those hard factual cases. Most judges won’t take the time to pick out the infringements from the non-infringements.

One day, however, MLB — increasingly my bête noire around here — will pick the wrong patsy. I hope that patsy finds my phone number.

Pure evil

And it doesn’t even exactly involve the Red Sox:

Various buildings overlook Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs. Entities unrelated to the Cubs operate businesses on those buidlings’ rooftops, charging admission and selling food and drink during Cubs games. The Cubs have sued some of these businesses for, among other things, falsely suggesting endorsement by the Cubs

Not surprising. MLB is one of the worst abusers of the IP laws, by the way. More here. And here. Incidentally, it’s unquestionably also one of the biggest victims of infringement.

But our mothers all taught us that two wrongs don’t make a right, right?

Baseball been very, very good to lawyers

Chico Escuela

Do you remember the lawsuit by Major League Baseball over the use of — well, not statistics, exactly, but the rights of publicity in baseball players and, marginally, the use of “players” (really, though, their statistics in a sense) by fantasy baseball leagues? That foul ball, unfortunately, has also not blown into the stands. Aaron Silverstein points to a New York Times article about the progress of this lawsuit as it heads into the bottom of the ninth. The issues are real ones, but the case will decide, in part, whether what was once regarded as common cultural of the American people — the personas of baseball players and what they do on the field — will be yet another “IP property” to be licensed, exploited and its rights “vigorously enforced,” to the (cultural) poverty of us all.

UPDATE: Colin Samuels refers us to Kaimipono David Wenger’s discussion of this case and notes:

Ron Coleman pointed out that the case, weak as it is, would turn on the rights in the players’ personalities (see here). Nevertheless, the players’ names, not their personalities or images, are being used; the names are only incidental to the statistics which are in the public domain. For the same reasons that player names can be reported with their game-by-game statistics in the morning sports pages without payment of royalties, I think MLB’s case will fall short; the only question in my mind is whether their market and financial strength will enable them to extract a compromise from the smaller and more fragmented fantasy/rotisserie league proprietors.