Posted by Andy on November 28, 2009
A patent lawyer colleague of mine pointed out that MLB is fighting Don Mattingly over a trademark application. Apparently Mattingly's company, Mattingly Hitting Products Inc., has attempted to trademark a logo featuring a left-handed batter wearing the #23 swinging a bat. Here below are the logo that Mattingly is attempting to trademark as well as the classic MLB logo that is the basis of the complaint:
For those unfamiliar with the rules of trademarks, the US Patent & Trademark Office will usually grant a trademark (which can be a name or a logo) unless it feels that the new mark may cause consumer confusion. For example, they would not allow a new soda company to trademark something like "Coka Cola" for fear that it would cause consumer confusion with "Coca Cola." Anyway, MLB has claimed that Mattingly's desire to put the logo on hats, bats, mitts, and other equipment will cause consumer confusion with equipment bearing the MLB logo. The case has been going on for more than 2 years already and is still not decided.
You can see the logo currently in use on the Mattingly Hitting Products website. Note the little "TM" that appears next to the logo--that means that Mattingly intends to trademark the logo but that a trademark has not yet been granted (otherwise the logo would have the ® symbol.)
It's neat to look at all the other trademark disputes that MLB has put up. You can see that many of the disputes have to do with use of the phrase "major league" such as for "major league kickball" and "major league medic." They have even battled the Melbourne Airport Authority in Melbourne, FL over the use of a logo featuring the abbreviation MLB for Melbourne! There is also a dispute with Jewish Major Leaguers over the use of that name to describe a set of baseball cards featuring Jewish ballplayers. Also, perhaps Bank of American really is not the official bank of MLB.
You can read more about the Mattingly case specifically at the TTABlog®.