Brooklyn Sports activities & Leisure Regulation Weblog

On Friday, November 11th the Brooklyn Leisure and Sports activities Regulation Society and the Mental Property Regulation Affiliation hosted the second annual Brooklyn Regulation College Sports activities Regulation Symposium. The symposium theme was “Sports activities Mental Property in a Time of Disruption” and had many college students, college, practitioners, household and pals in attendance. The occasion was a terrific success and BESLS and IPLA are already excited for subsequent yr!

The primary panel of the day, “Sports activities Logos: Challenges & Alternatives,” offered insightful dialog on the evolving world of trademark regulation because it pertains to the sports activities business. Professor Jodi Balsam (Sports activities Regulation Professor at Brooklyn Regulation College) moderated the panel and was joined by Andrew Patrick (Counsel at MSG Sports activities), Wendy Li (Affiliate Counsel at BSE International), and Mark Conrad (Director of the Sports activities Enterprise Focus at Fordham College’s Gabelli College of Enterprise).

The panel started with Andrew and Wendy highlighting how their organizations are extraordinarily protecting of their marks. With the expansion of merchandising, digital platforms, and social media, the worth of sports activities marks is skyrocketing which warrants diligent safety and enforcement. A lot of the day-to-day of their respective roles entails trademark searches and analysis, sending stop and desist letters, and guaranteeing that they’re receiving as a lot worth from the marks as attainable.

Subsequent, Professor Conrad mentioned how the emergence of various digital mediums, reminiscent of NFTs, poses new trademark regulation points that attorneys within the area should confront. Because of an absence of case regulation and expertise inside the USPTO, safety of marks in these new types requires intensive diligence, analysis, lobbying, and creativity. Whereas there’s an abundance of worth to be captured in new know-how, there’s additionally elevated threat, honest use circumstances, and entry into the general public area.

Professor Balsam then introduced up an attention-grabbing case in sports activities trademark regulation: Penn State v. Classic Model, LLC. Though the case continues to be in its early levels (Penn State’s movement for abstract judgment was denied on July 14th), the panelists all agreed that the court docket’s message was profound. By denying the movement for abstract judgment, the court docket answered the slender query: Does an emblem determine the supply of products if it merely creates an affiliation between it and the trademark holder? The court docket decided it doesn’t. By displaying Penn State logos on their merchandise, Classic Model argued that buyers purchase the products to point out assist for the college, not as a result of they suppose the college is the producer of the merchandise. In its abstract judgment ruling, the court docket made clear that trademark regulation doesn’t present groups unique management over merchandise containing their marks. This consequence, whereas nonetheless topic to extra litigation, can have a significant affect on the multibillion-dollar sports activities trademark licensing enterprise.

The panelists then mentioned points with athletes trademarking their signature poses and phrases. Since some of these marks don’t essentially symbolize a services or products, athletes should present use in commerce or an intent to make use of in commerce. Whereas it’s clear that athletes are attempting to get safety for these marks, the extent of trademark safety is but to be seen.

Lastly, the panel concluded with a dialogue on why the USPTO is so receptive to claims that sports activities groups are infringing on different’s marks (i.e. Las Vegas Golden Knights, Cleveland Guardians). Professor Conrad provided a easy reply: “cash, cash, cash.” Trademark legal guidelines haven’t modified, however having unique management over marks is turning into extraordinarily worthwhile. General, given the elevated worth related to sports activities logos, safety and enforcement has by no means been so necessary.

BESLS, IPLA, and everybody in attendance wish to thank the panelists and moderator for an insightful dialog on the world of sports activities logos.

Written by: Daniel Erber
Daniel is a 2023 J.D. Candidate at Brooklyn Regulation College