San Francisco Giants Sued For Use Of Classic San Francisco Script Logo

By Joseph Mandour on October 11, 2011

California Trademark InfringementLos Angeles – The San Francisco Giants have been sued for using their stylized “San Francisco” logo on merchandise. Though the Giants have been using the script “San Francisco” logo since 1993 on baseball merchandise and apparel, neither the San Francisco Giants nor Major League Baseball have registered the logo as a trademark.

A very similar logo was registered, however, by Gogo Sports, a company that manufactures and sells unlicensed apparel and merchandise. Gogo Sports was granted trademark registration for its script logo in March, 2011. Subsequently in April, 2011, MLB attempted to register the San Francisco Giants’ script logo as a trademark. However, registration was denied by the USPTO who found that a “nearly identical” trademark had already been registered to Gogo Sports. Neither Major Leage Baseball nor the Giants opposed Gogo Sports’ application for registration.

After receiving a cease and desist letter from Major League Baseball, Gogo Sports brought an action against the San Francisco Giants and MLB seeking a declaratory judgment clarifying Gogo Sports’ ownership of the trademark.

Though Gogo Sports was the first party to register the trademark, it may be unable to establish priority over the trademark before the court. If the Giants are able to demonstrate use in commerce beginning in 1993, Gogo Sports will not have priority over the trademark. Generally, trademark rights belong to the party that can demonstrate priority of use in commerce. The Giants’ rights in the trademark are likely to stem from use in commerce rather than registration. Even though the Giants’ trademark was unregistered, if it can show priority over Gogo Sports they are likely to prevail in the action.

While the trademarks are not identical, it is possible that the court will consider them confusingly similar. There are subtle differences to the two designs. For example, the Gogo Sports logo runs horizontally while the Giants’ logo, in contrast, angles upwards from left to right. In addition, the Gogo Sports logo features the word ‘California’ in the tail of the ‘O.’ The Giants’ logo features an artistic tail on the letter ‘O’ as well, but the tail does not contain the word ‘California.’

Despite their differences, the USPTO described the two trademarks as similar or “nearly identical” when it rejected the Giants’ application.

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