Los Angeles Chargers

In January 2017 the Chargers announced they were moving back to where it all began, Los Angeles.  Even though San Diego had been the Chargers home for 56 years, the team was a established in 1959 in Los Angeles.

Many Chargers fans were shocked to hear the news.  But the relocation to LA was not planned overnight.  The team took steps to protect its intellectual property rights nearly a year before they announced they were relocating to Los Angeles.  In January 2016, the Chargers Football Company, LLC filed for two trademark applications with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) for LA CHARGERS and LOS ANGELES CHARGERS.  The team’s trademark applications covered a wide variety of goods and service, which is type for professional sports-related trademark applications, ranging anywhere from football helmets to pet toys.

Some of the goods and services covered by the trademark applications include:

  • “Clothing, footwear and headwear, namely, caps, hats, visors, headbands, ear muffs, wristbands, tops, T-shirts, tank tops, sleepwear, golf shirts, sweaters, sweatshirts, turtlenecks, jackets, neckties, bibs not of paper, jerseys, coats, robes, ponchos, sneakers, gloves, scarves, mittens, aprons, shorts, sweatpants, jeans, pants, socks, underwear, swimwear, rompers” in Class 025.
  • “Football helmets; downloadable software in the nature of mobile applications for displaying information relating to football exhibitions, football schedules, media guides, audio and visual recordings relating to football exhibitions, downloadable computer game and video game software, downloadable multimedia file containing artwork, text, audio, video, games, and internet web links relating to football exhibitions; downloadable electronic publications, namely, magazines and newsletters, all in the field of football; cell phone covers; decorative magnets; magnetic coded charge cards; pre-recorded DVDs featuring the sport of football, light switch covers, computer game software and disks, and mouse pads” in Class 009
  • “Jewelry, watches, clocks, ornamental pins, earrings, bracelets, necklaces, charms, rings, collectible coins, tie pins and clips, commemorative coins made of precious metal, pendants and key chains made of precious metal” in Class 014.
  • “Toys and sporting goods, namely, plush toys, stuffed animal toys, play figures, golf balls, golf bags, golf club covers, footballs, toy banks, board games, Christmas tree ornaments, balloons, jigsaw puzzles, toy and decorative windsocks, kites, pet toys, toy vehicles, billiard balls, dart boards, miniature toy helmets, cornohole board games, playing cards, paper party hats” in Class 028.

From the time the Chargers announced they were relocating to Los Angeles the team has faced plenty of opposition.

First, opposition from fans who were understandably upset about the team’s decision to pick up and move from a city who stood by them, win or lose, for over half a century.  

Second, opposition and widespread criticism from the public who roasted the team when they changed their logo on social media.  The roast was warranted though.  Even if the logo was not going to be the team’s official logo and was solely used for marketing purposes, the first logo posted did indeed look like a love child between Tampa Bay’s lightning bolt and the Dodger’s interlocking logo.  (The criticism lead to the logo being changed on the team’s social media pages three times in less than 36 hours.)  

Third, the Chargers also face opposition in the form of trademark opposition.  In late Dec. 2016, L.A. Gear (a athletic apparel company) filed a Notice of Opposition with the USPTO’s Trademark Trial and Appeal Board related to the clothing portion of the LA CHARGERS application.  L.A. Gear argues that the the LA CHARGERS mark conflicts with L.A. Gear’s trademark and is likely to cause consumer confusion as to the source of the goods.

In L.A. Gear’s Notice of Opposition, Opposer L.A. Gear cites 22 U.S. trademark registrations with first use as early as 1985.  For the Chargers, there are are two L.A. Gear registrations that could potentially be difficult to overcome and they are logo marks that were successfully registered for the phrase “LA” with the “GEAR.”

If L.A. Gear is successful in their Notice of Opposition, they could prevent the Chargers from selling “LA Chargers” branded gear, which potentially includes apparel with just an “LA” logo.

However, due to the high-profile nature of the football league, it is likely the football franchise and the apparel company will reach some agreement that will satisfy both parties and allow the Los Angeles Chargers to use “LA” in connection with apparel in some way.

(Interesting side note: L.A. Gear has no standing to oppose the LA Dodgers mark because the use of the Dodgers mark predated L.A. Gears existence.  And in 2008 L.A. Gear did not file a Notice of Opposition against the Major League Soccer’s LA Galaxy for a logo that included the words “LA Galaxy.”)

L.A. Gear became popular in the 80s for its L.A. lights shoes.  The Los-Angeles based company was founded in 1979 by the same man who also founded Skechers, Robert Greenberg, and offers retro-inspired clothing and shoes.  

Neither LA Gear nor the Chargers have made public statements about the trademark dispute.  The Charger’s have until Feb. 16 to file an official response with the USPTO.

 

So there has been nothing but revolt against the Bolts for their move to Los Angeles.  

 

For more information on this topic, please visit our Trademark Oppositions post.

 

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CHELSEA WOLD, is a law clerk for LegalForce RAPC. She received her Juris Doctor degree from Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law, Arizona State University in May 2016. On the personal side, Chelsea has her own blog that she started as a journalism major in college.