How To Avoid Infringing Red Sox Trademarks

Or anybody else’s, for that matter.

Trademarks: What They Is, What They Ain’t

Trademarks are important for businesses, but they are not as broad as many people think. I’d be rich if I had a nickel for every time I read a Tweet that said, “ZOMG, I can’t believe the smiley face emoticon has been trademarked!”

Many things can be trademarked, including sounds (NBC chime), colors (Owens Corning’s pink fiberglass), numbers, favicons, and (yes) emoticons (Despair.com’s :-( emoticon was registered way back in 2000).

But just because something is trademarked doesn’t mean it’s off limits to everybody for all uses period. It means that competitors are precluded from offering similar products under similar looking or sounding trademarks. A Twitter-friendly summary of the law: Don’t confuse the customers, bro!

The trademark infringement standard is “likelihood of confusion,” which is made on a case-by-case basis using the DuPont factors (yawn). Likelihood of confusion is like art (yawn). You know it when you see it. In short, the trademarks have to be close enough, and the goods/services have to be close enough.

For example, my firm is Clock Tower Law Group, but that doesn’t mean that I “own” the phrase “Clock Tower,” just that other law firms (and intellectual property law firms in particular) would probably not be able to coexist without confusion in the marketplace (or a cease and desist letter from me, but I digress). But Clock Tower Pastry Shop? They’d be OK. Especially if they sold Finnish pulla.

Furthermore, trademarks are tied to specific goods and services, which are divided into 45 classes (browse trademark classifications at WIPO, search trademark classifications at USPTO).

Classes are like domain names. You can have more than one. For example, desktop software is generally in class 9, but software as a service (SaaS) is generally in class 42. Your trademark can likely be classified in more than one class. If your company name is Example Inc., then your domain names might be:

  • example.com
  • example.net

And your trademarks, in domain-name-like syntax, might be:

  • example.9.pc (desktop software)
  • example.42.saas (software as a service)

Likelihood of confusion occurs between two trademarks when the parts to the left and right of the first dot are too close. At least that’s how I think about it.

Red Sox Trademarks

The Red Sox have many registered and pending trademarks for specific goods and services.

1. Status URL

2. Date Registered

3. Trademark

4. Class – Goods & Services

http://tarr.uspto.gov/servlet/tarr?regser=serial&entry=73010583

07/01/75

041 – entertainment services in the nature of baseball exhibitions

http://tarr.uspto.gov/servlet/tarr?regser=serial&entry=73053717

06/01/76

029 – meat products-namely, frankfurters

http://tarr.uspto.gov/servlet/tarr?regser=serial&entry=73010582

07/20/76

(a) 006 – key tags and key chains

(b) 014 – watches, clocks, lapel pins, costume jewelry pins and novelty pins

(c) 016 – posters, decals

(d) 018 – tote bag for carrying baseball equipment

(e) 020 – cushions

(f) 021 – waste baskets for domestic use, plastic drinking cups

(g) 024 – cloth pennants

(h) 025 – t-shirts, sweatshirts, pajamas, socks ponchos, jackets, pants, and robes

(i) 026 – cloth, iron-on, sew-on and pressuresensitive patches and cloth badges and belt buckles

(j) 028 – baseballs, golf balls

(k) 034 – cigarette lighters

http://tarr.uspto.gov/servlet/tarr?regser=serial&entry=73093283

02/22/77

041 – entertainment services in the nature of baseball exhibitions

http://tarr.uspto.gov/servlet/tarr?regser=serial&entry=73093085

07/04/78

Red Sox

041 – entertainment services in the nature of baseball exhibitions

http://tarr.uspto.gov/servlet/tarr?regser=serial&entry=73284771

03/29/83

025 – baseball caps

http://tarr.uspto.gov/servlet/tarr?regser=serial&entry=73739612

01/31/89

021 – beverage containers, namely, pewter and tankards, cups and mugs

http://tarr.uspto.gov/servlet/tarr?regser=serial&entry=73739600

03/07/89

(a) 024 – fabrics, namely, cloth pennants and stadium blankets

(b) 025 – clothing, namely, jackets, sweaters, sweatshirts, mesh shirts, polo shirts and t-shirts

http://tarr.uspto.gov/servlet/tarr?regser=serial&entry=73739604

03/14/89

(a) 014 – watches, clocks, souvenir coins, and jewelry, namely, cloisonne pins, costume jewelry pins, 14 kt/silver charms and pendants, 14kt gold pins, hand-painted lapel pins

(b) 016 – paper goods and printed matter, namely, stickers and sticker albums, baseball trading cards, pens, paper tablecloths, wrapping paper, playing cards, bumper stickers and lithographs

(c) 020 – ornamental novelty items, namely, plaques, musical celluloid buttons, decorative wall and baseball stands

(d) 021 – small domestic utensils and containers, namely, mugs, pewter tankards, drinking cups, glasses, insulating sleeves for beverage containers, mini mugs, all purpose portable containers, coasters not of paper or linen, shot glasses, ice cream containers, paper plates and wastebaskets

(e) 024 – fabrics, namely, towels, pennants, golf towels, bedspreads, sheets, bath mats, shower curtains, cotton wallhangings, stadium blankets and potholders

(f) 025 – clothing, namely, socks, children’s playsets comprising shirts and shorts, boxer shorts, visors, poplin jackets, t-shirts, sweatshirts, athletic shorts, 3/4 sleeve jerseys, satin jackets, neckties, canvas belts with buckle, caps, wrist and head bands

(g) 026 – belt buckles and embroidered patches

(h) 028 – toys and sporting goods, namely, baseballs, flying disks, balloons, decorative windstocks, Christmas tree ornaments, helmet shaped banks, putters, golf balls, autographed baseballs, inflatable bats, stuffed animals and batting gloves

(i) 034 – smoker’s articles, namely, ashtrays and lighters

http://tarr.uspto.gov/servlet/tarr?regser=serial&entry=73739610

11/28/89

(a) 020 – ornamental novelty items, namely, pins

(b) 021 – beverage containers, namely, thermal mugs, thermal steins, tankards and drinking cups

http://tarr.uspto.gov/servlet/tarr?regser=serial&entry=73739596

01/23/90

(a) 016 – baseball trading cards

(b) 025 – [blank]

http://tarr.uspto.gov/servlet/tarr?regser=serial&entry=73791580

02/27/90

Fenway

029 – meat products, namely, frankfurters

http://tarr.uspto.gov/servlet/tarr?regser=serial&entry=73803415

03/06/90

Fenway Park

(a) 021 – beverage containers, namely, cups and mugs

(b) 024 – textile fabrics, namely, pennants

(c) 025 – clothing, namely, caps and t-shirts

http://tarr.uspto.gov/servlet/tarr?regser=serial&entry=73713094

05/15/90

(a) 016 – paper products and printed matter, namely, baseball trading cards

(b) 024 – textile fabrics, namely, cloth pennants and towels

(c) 025 – clothing, namely, shirts

(d) 026 – embroidered patches

(e) 028 – Christmas tree ornaments

http://tarr.uspto.gov/servlet/tarr?regser=serial&entry=73834541

06/19/90

018 – gym bags

http://tarr.uspto.gov/servlet/tarr?regser=serial&entry=73739611

01/29/91

(a) 020 – ornamental novelty items, namely, plaques, plastic figurines and buttons

(b) 024 – textile fabrics, namely towels

(c) 028 – toys and sporting goods, namely, dolls and baseball batting helmets

http://tarr.uspto.gov/servlet/tarr?regser=serial&entry=74005279

04/30/91

Red Sox

(a) 016 – paper goods and printed matter, namely, bumper stickers, pens, pencils, posters, baseball cards, programs about baseball, magazines about baseball, books about baseball, calendars, playing cards

(b) 025 – clothing, namely, shirts, jackets, ponchos, caps, bibs, two-piece diaper sets; baby bootees; and short sets, sweatshirts

http://tarr.uspto.gov/servlet/tarr?regser=serial&entry=74089908

12/01/92

025 – clothing; namely, shirts to promote a professional baseball team; namely, the Boston Red Sox

http://tarr.uspto.gov/servlet/tarr?regser=serial&entry=74213158

12/22/92

Green Monster

025 – clothing; namely, shirts,, hats, caps

http://tarr.uspto.gov/servlet/tarr?regser=serial&entry=74309731

05/25/93

(a) 016 – paper products; namely, baseball cards, scorecards, magazines relating to baseball, schedules, media guide and record books relating to baseball;; pencils

(b) 025 – clothing; namely, caps, twill caps, baseball caps, t-shirts and sweatshirts

http://tarr.uspto.gov/servlet/tarr?regser=serial&entry=74357425

09/21/93

025 – clothing; namely, caps, hats, shirts and t-shirts

http://tarr.uspto.gov/servlet/tarr?regser=serial&entry=75852451

01/16/01

025 – clothing; namely, shirts, shorts, tee shirts, polo shirts, golf shirts, tank tops, jogging suits, socks, jackets, sweaters, vests, pants, ponchos, visors, hats, caps, cloth bibs, ties, pajamas, baby pants, baby booties and short sets, sweatshirts, mittens, gloves, knitted hats, scarves, wrist bands, head bands, aprons, wind resistant jackets, jumpsuits, sweatpants, overalls, bandanas, beachwear, bathing suits, belts, Bermuda shorts, blouses, coats, gym suits, head wear, leather jackets, jerseys, pullovers, rompers, rainwear, parkas, night shirts, v-neck sweaters and knit shirts

http://tarr.uspto.gov/servlet/tarr?regser=serial&entry=76178537

11/06/01

025 – clothing, namely, caps, hats, headwear, headbands, shirts, t-shirts, jerseys, sweatshirts, boxer shorts, sleepwear, infantwear, footwear, socks

http://tarr.uspto.gov/servlet/tarr?regser=serial&entry=75922739

07/02/02

025 – clothing; namely, shirts, shorts, tee shirts, polo shirts, golf shirts, tank tops, jogging suits, socks, underwear, jackets, sweaters, vests, pants, ponchos, visors, hats, caps, cloth bibs, ties, pajamas, baby pants, baby booties and short sets, sweatshirts, mittens, gloves, knitted hats, scarves, hosiery, wrist bands, head bands, robes, aprons, shoes, cloth diaper sets, wind resistant jackets, jumpsuits, sweatpants, overalls, bandanas, beachwear, bathing suits, belts, Bermuda shorts, blouses, coats, dresses, gym suits, head wear, leather jackets, jerseys, pullovers, rompers, rainwear, parkas, night shirts, v-neck sweaters and knit shirts

http://tarr.uspto.gov/servlet/tarr?regser=serial&entry=76287208

10/15/02

016 – paper goods and printed matter, namely, trading cards, posters, stickers, decals, temporary tattoos, bumper stickers, scorebooks, scorecards, game programs, magazines and books featuring baseball, stationery folders, calendars, greeting cards, lithographs, pens, pencils

http://tarr.uspto.gov/servlet/tarr?regser=serial&entry=76179976

03/04/03

041 – entertainment services, namely, baseball games, competitions and exhibitions rendered live, through broadcast media including television and radio and via a global computer network or a commercial on-line service; providing and disseminating information in the field of sports, entertainment and related topics, and providing multi-user interactive computer games, all via a global computer network or a commercial on-line service; education services in the nature of baseball skills instruction

http://tarr.uspto.gov/servlet/tarr?regser=serial&entry=78633840

04/17/07

009 – electrical and scientific apparatus, namely, pre-recorded videodiscs relating to baseball; compact disc cases; cases for personal digital assistants, calculators; photographic cameras; electric switch plate covers; sunglasses; decorative magnets; protective helmets, baseball batting helmets, catcher’s helmets; video and computer game cartridges, video and computer game discs, video and computer game cassettes and video game controllers; computer accessories, namely, mouse pads; computer game programs

http://tarr.uspto.gov/servlet/tarr?regser=serial&entry=78633845

04/24/07

014 – jewelry, namely, bracelets, charms, earrings, rings, belly rings, necklaces, pendants, watches, costume jewelry, silicone or rubber bracelets and/or wristbands, medallions, ornamental metal pins, lapel pins, cuff links, metal belt buckles of precious metal, money clips of precious metal, key chains of precious metal, key rings of precious metal, clocks, wall clocks, alarm clocks, fob watches, clock key chains, and non-monetary coins of precious metal

http://tarr.uspto.gov/servlet/tarr?regser=serial&entry=78633853

05/01/07

009 – electrical and scientific apparatus, namely, pre-recorded videotapes relating to baseball, pre-recorded videodiscs relating to baseball; pre-recorded audio discs relating to baseball; compact disc cases; cases for personal digital assistants, cell phone accessories, namely, cases and face plate covers; binoculars; calculators; photographic cameras; electric switch plate covers; luminous signs, neon signs; sunglasses; decorative magnets; protective helmets, catcher’s helmets; video and computer game cartridges, video and computer game discs, video and computer game cassettes and video game controllers; computer accessories, namely, mouse pads, computer software, namely, screen savers, computer game programs, and computer game programs downloadable from a global computer network in the field of baseball

http://tarr.uspto.gov/servlet/tarr?regser=serial&entry=78633849

01/02/08

014 – jewelry, namely, bracelets, charms, earrings, rings, belly rings, necklaces, pendants, watches, costume jewelry, silicone or rubber bracelets and/or wristbands, medallions, ornamental metal pins, lapel pins, cuff links, metal belt buckles of precious metal, tie tacks, tie pins, money clips of precious metal, precious metal key chains, precious metal key rings, clocks, wall clocks, alarm clocks, fob watches, clocks incorporated into key chains, and non-monetary coins of precious metal

http://tarr.uspto.gov/servlet/tarr?regser=serial&entry=78633839

01/15/08

018 – athletic bags, overnight bags, backpacks, duffel bags, tote bags, knapsacks, attaché cases, briefcases, purses, wallets, billfolds, fanny packs, waist packs, business card cases, luggage tags, umbrellas, dog collars and dog leashes

http://tarr.uspto.gov/servlet/tarr?regser=serial&entry=78619657

03/04/08

Monster Seats

041 – entertainment services, namely, baseball games, competitions and exhibitions rendered live and through broadcast media including television and radio, and via a global computer network or a commercial on-line service; providing facilities for sports tournaments, competitions and exhibitions relating to baseball; all of the foregoing relating to the green monster wall feature and its related entertainment and mascot services

http://tarr.uspto.gov/servlet/tarr?regser=serial&entry=77229387

03/18/08

Green Monster

035 – concession stands featuring food and beverages

http://tarr.uspto.gov/servlet/tarr?regser=serial&entry=77229951

01/06/09

Monster Concessions

035 – concession stands featuring food and beverages

As a result, the Red Sox have been in many trademark disputes, including one with blogosphere favorite Monster Cable (now apparently settled). Trademarks disputed by the Red Sox include:

Summary

Protecting trademarks is a process, not an event. Red Sox trademarks have evolved. So has the business of baseball. In 12/2008, the Red Sox announced new logos, and the “hanging Sox” logo trademark application has already been filed. As usual, the Red Sox are on top of business. The only error I see on my scorecard is that the Red Sox are using a law firm based in New York City.

In short, if you want to avoid infringing Red Sox trademarks, (1) avoid selling stuff like the stuff in column 4 (2) using a name that looks or sounds like one under column 3.

And if you want to avoid infringing anybody’s trademark, (1) avoid selling stuff like their stuff (2) using a name that looks or sounds like their trademark.

Disclaimer: This article may be reblogged, retweeted, or shared with or without the expressed written consent of Major League Baseball.


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  1. Pingback: Choose Name | How To File A Trademark (Part 1) | ErikJHeels.com

  2. Pingback: File Trademark | How To File A Trademark (Part 3) | ErikJHeels.com

  3. Deirdre says...

    “Especially if they sold Finnish pulla.” Couldn’t agree more! :) Thanks for SO MUCH helpful info to a fledging business owner!