In what has to be an incredibly bold maneuver, Gogo Sports of Hayward, California is suing the San Francisco Giants baseball club for trademark infringement of the script “San Francisco” logo. Gogo Sports appears to slap the logo on apparel and sells them on the street (can one say “knockoff?”). Apparently, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) registered Gogo Sports’ script “San Francisco” which looks similar to that of the San Francisco Giants’ script “San Francisco,” on the Supplemental Register on March 15, 2011. Gogo Sports did add the word “California” in the “tail” of the logo.
Gogo Sports’ Logo:
San Francisco Giants’ Logo:
The registration on the Supplemental Register means that the USPTO found Gogo Sports’ mark descriptive. What is amazing, however, is the fact that the USPTO did not note that Gogo Sports’ mark was similar to that of the Giants’ baseball team’s mark. Apparently, the USPTO only searched its own database. The Examining Attorney most definitely must not have been a baseball fan!
Even more amazing is the fact that Major League Baseball (“MLB”) sought to register their script logo shortly after learning of Gogo Sports’ registration. MLB’s application was denied because of Gogo Sports’ “virtually identical” mark. The refusal to register the mark by the USPTO does not mean that the Giants or MLB do not have any rights in the mark. This is what makes no sense. Instead of seeking to register the mark, it seems to me that MLB or the Giants would have been better served in seeking cancellation of Gogo Sports’ mark or suing for infringement. The Giants and MLB have superior rights to the script San Francisco logo since they have been using it in commerce for decades. By way of contrast, Gogo Sports began first use in 2008.
The long and short of it is: you can have rights to a trademark without registration. Registering has certain advantages. Nevertheless, it seems that Gogo Sports’ lawsuit will not be well taken and that the MLB and San Francisco Giants will be able to (and should) prevail.