Salt Lake City, UT (PRWEB) January 25, 2013
Major League Soccer recently expanded into the Pacific Northwest, adding teams in Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver. But soccer isn’t new to this area. Before joining MLS, these teams were part of another professional league, the A-League, and prior to that, the USL-1. Over decades of playing each other, these regional teams developed a passionate, competitive rivalry. The rivalry became so well known that supporters groups created a mini-tournament and trophy for the winner of the head-to-head matchups called the Cascadia Cup. The term came into official use in 2004, which was long before the teams had any notion of joining MLS. Now that the teams have made the move to Major League Soccer, the League has announced that it intends to obtain a trademark registration for the Cascadia Cup mark in Canada.
According to the Seattle Times atricle, to the chagrin of MLS, fans of the three clubs, e.g., the supporters groups, formed an organization they call the Cascadia Cup Council, which applied for a U.S. trademark registration for the Cascadia Cup mark earlier this month and has a pending Canadian trademark application for the mark. The League and the Council are now fighting over who should control the Cascadia Cup trademark registrations.
MLS claims that it has the trademark expertise to make sure that the brand is used properly. MLS argues if the trademark is left to the Council they might allow use of it by an unapproved sponsor or in ways in which the League does not approve. The Council argues that the brand belongs to the fans that created it years ago and the League only filing a trademark application to profit from the success of the rivalry.
Perry Clegg from Trademark Access states even if there is merit to the League’s argument that it has more experience dealing with trademark registrations, how do you tell the fans who developed and grew the rivalry that they are excluded from decisions regarding the brand name? Plus, the Council alleges its trademark rights date back to 2004 so the League cannot just step in push the Council to the side. The League is in a difficult position. If it seeks to oppose the Council’s U.S. trademark application, it runs the risk of hurting the goodwill it has with fans and weakening its other brands. The League will need to find some way to amicably work out a solution regarding the trademark applications if it wants to avoid collateral damaging to its other brand names.
As demonstrated by MLS’s dispute with a sector of its fan base, early control of a trademark registration can be important not only to protecting the registered brand name, but also can have a collateral impact on other brands. If not handled properly early on by an experienced trademark attorney, fights over control of strategic brands and trademarks are bound to happen. Perry Clegg, an attorney at Trademark Access, says that “while you may not be able to avoid all trademark disputes, consulting with a trademark attorney early on can help you minimize your risks and put a business in a stronger position to defend a trademark dispute when it arises.” The outcome of this MLS versus fans dispute is yet to be seen, but no doubt both sides will want the advice of competent trademark attorneys.