MLB Attempts to File 'Absurd' Trademark, Law Experts Call It an 'Overreach'
One dirty little secret about professional sports is that most teams have a positively contentious relationship with whatever their home city is.
After all, if you’re not actually a fan of the sport or the team, where does that leave you, a citizen of said city?
Your tax dollars will invariably be put to use to help a billionaire team owner build a new stadium. If you live anywhere near that stadium, game days are going to be a traffic nightmare for you. And your city is going to be bustling with obnoxious interlopers anytime a rival rolls into town.
Major League Baseball apparently feels that non-fans are not being antagonized quite enough and has reportedly decided to take things a (gigantic) step further — by trying to file a trademark on the word “Boston.”
According to the Boston Herald, MLB has enlisted copyright law attorney Maryann E. Licciardi to file the application on behalf of Boston Red Sox Baseball Club Limited Partnership New England Sports Ventures, LLC.
The league is trying to file the trademark “for all manner of clothing and entertainment services, including radio, podcasts, and television.”
Sources told the Herald that the Red Sox themselves were unaware that any such action had been taken on their behalf by MLB.
The legal experts to whom the Herald spoke all seemed to agree that this trademark application is the longest of long shots.
“They’re seeking the rights to the word ‘Boston’ itself, and the government should flat-out reject this,” Boston University School of Law professor Stacey Dogan said.
“These are absurd filings and are an overreach,” law professor Peter Karol said. “They have a very low chance of being successful.”
Karol added that this filing appears to be rooted in two things: fantasy sports and sports betting. Sports betting became legal in Massachusetts earlier this month.
“I think that could be part of what’s going on,” Karol said. “They might want to be protective of the word in digitized formats.”
Karol said the application could also be in response to illegal vendors (imagine a bootleg Red Sox shirt that just says “Boston” in stylized font).
But even given that reasoning, it’s hard to imagine something more offensive to Bostonians than a corporation trying to claim the word “Boston” for itself.
Compounding matters, it appears that Boston isn’t the only major American city that MLB is trying to trademark. The Herald reported that similar trademark applications were filed for Houston and Seattle.
Law professor Alexandra Jane Roberts told the Herald that the broad implications of these would-be trademarks make them all but an impossibility.
“There are words and phrases that just can’t be trademarked because they’re used by so many different sources,” Roberts said. “There are catchphrases and slogans that are just going to be really hard or impossible to establish trademark rights.”
The Red Sox kick off the upcoming MLB season next week with six straight games in Boston.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.