MLB Tries To Trademark 3 City Names, Runs Away After Law Profs School Them

baseball sadIt’s opening day and already Major League Baseball has struck out.

It’s a story as old as time: major sports league tries to trademark a bunch of city names only to be schooled on the internet and media by law professors and dropping the applications. Well, okay, so that’s not that common of a story, but it sure is what just happened to Major League Baseball.

See, MLB decided to attempt to trademark three city names: Boston, Seattle, and Houston. Why those three cities? ¯_(ツ)_/¯

The categories for the applications were baseball games (fine), athletic events (wait…), concerts (hold on now), fan clubs (no way), and sports camps (nuh uh). As you may sense from my parentheticals, there are a great many problems with those categories, namely that a metric ton of other businesses and organizations are already using the name of the city in which they operate in their names, branding, etc. Fan clubs? So a fan club for the band Boston calls itself what, exactly?

Then came the public, media, and law professors, all explaining just how very stupid this all was.

But crucially, the two applications, if granted, could have opened the door to the Red Sox having the ability to assert a legal claim to merchandise that simply bears the name “Boston,” but is not written in the classic style or font of the club, experts say.

“Which is a serious overreach,” Rebecca Curtin, a Suffolk University law professor, said on Friday.

The public backlash was fairly swift. None of this should be particularly surprising, given that MLB was trying to trademark the name of a major freaking city for categories that would impact all kinds of other businesses and people. In a matter of days, the league had dropped its applications and the owner of the Red Sox got to work bus-tossing MLB in the press to make sure the public didn’t blame his team for this idiocy.

The league isn’t talking, unsurprisingly, but the law profs still are.

Stacey Dogan, a law professor at Boston University, called the trademark applications at issue “ridiculous.”

“Teams and institutions and universities and cities — all sorts of entities are trying to commercialize the value of their organization in some way,” she said. “They’re always eager to grab as much as they can get and to make claims that might give them a little bit more territory, but this one is really absurd.”

As one of my favorite follows, Alexandra Roberts, pointed out in that article, it was very unlikely that these trademarks would have survived the scrutiny of the USPTO itself, never mind the large amount of opposition that the application would likely face anyway.

Making this all an exercise in self-harm on the part of MLB.

MLB Tries To Trademark 3 City Names, Runs Away After Law Profs School Them

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