As many business owners know, branding is everything these days and once you get your brand just right, the next logical step is to protect it. Apparently the business end of the SF Giants skipped class the day that lesson was taught, as now they are in a fight to protect one of the most recognized logos in the Bay Area; the San Francisco Giants logo.
An instant moniker used to identify tourists who didn’t realize that San Francisco isn’t a sub-tropical haven; the logo has been in use since 1993 by the Major League Baseball team on an array of baseball souvenir paraphernalia, not to mention the team’s jerseys! However, simply walking down The Embarcadero, one is greeted with a plethora of street vendors ready to sell you an overpriced knock-off of the real thing.
In November of 2010, a vendor company by the name of Gogo Sports, Inc. which has been in business since 2006, applied for a remarkably similar logo design and received registration from the United States Patent and Trademark Office in March of 2011. It would appear that the MLB caught wind of this and finally filed for a trademark in April of 2011, however, since the Gogo trademark had already received registration, the MLB mark was issued a Non-Final Action in regards to the fact that there was a confusingly similar mark that was already registered!
On September 7, 2011, MLBP Inc, issued a cease and desist letter to Gogo Sports Inc. stating that they were infringing on a known trademark and Gogo fired back stating that there was no trademark infringement occurring because there was no previously registered trademark that was owned by MLBP. On September 27, 2011 Gogo Sports Inc. filed a lawsuit against MLBP Inc. and the San Francisco Giants Baseball Club in order for a federal court to decide who has true ownership of the mark in question.
At the present time, it would appear as though the date for a court preceding has not been set, however Golden Gate University law professor William Gallagher states, “[Federal law] also protects unregistered trademarks. If the Giants have been using the script logo on their merchandise for years, it’s likely they’ll have strong trademark rights based on use alone.” Another thing to consider is that since the Gogo trademark was registered on the supplemental register, only a judge can decide whether the trademark in question is valid and who, if anyone, has exclusive rights to use the mark nationwide. If there is one thing that is known though, it’s that this case is far from being a “can of corn”, as they say.