As many of you know, we’re lucky to have a trademark attorney in the Uni Watch readership. That would be Anthony Verna (who, in addition to his legal practice, has a blog devoted to trademark law). After my little ramble last Friday about the the circle-R trademark symbol that appears on the Cubs’ home jersey patch (if you missed that spiel, look here), Anthony generously offered to help sort out the situation — an offer I happily accepted.
Anthony ended up sending me a fairly lengthy explanation. With his permission, I’ve taken the liberty of shaping it into the following Q-and-A:
What’s the point of the ® symbol?
The simple answer is this: Companies whose trademarks are registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office must use the symbol or else the registration may be lost. That symbol is the only symbol that shows that a company’s trademark is registered with the USPTO.
Okay, but why register a trademark to begin with?
The basic answer is to show to the world what the mark signifies. It shows the source of goods or services and the quality of those goods or services. (Please, no joking about how the Cubs have played over the last century or so!)
But do you have to use the ® every single time your mark appears?
Many trademark attorneys advise their clients to place the ® symbol everywhere (in fact, an employee at a company that’s a client of mine complained about having to make sure that the symbol was always there). There may be times when there might be a business-related reason not to include the symbol, but I advise my clients to keep those to a minimum. For example, would anyone want to buy a CD by a band whose name is followed by the ® symbol? The symbol should certainly be on items such as advertisements, press releases, web sites, etc.
Okay, so how does this all apply to the Cubs? When did they register their logo?
The Cubs’ first registered trademark that I can find comes from May 20, 1969. It’s the familiar logo where “Cubs” is in a circle and the “C” is bigger than the rest of the word.
But if you look at photos from the 1970s, the Cubs didn’t use the ®. If they registered the mark in 1969, why did they wait until the early ’80s to add the symbol?
It’s hard to say why. My only guess would be that an aggressive trademark attorney joined their corporate structure around the time the symbol started appearing.
Alright, so that covers the Cubs. But what about other teams — don’t all major-level sports teams register their logos?
I think so. (The old Hartford Whalers were an exception — their logo was never registered. The NHL started the process once the team moved to Carolina and was renamed the Hurricanes but never finished.)
Then why don’t all these other teams wear the trademark symbol?
They’ve chosen not to. As a trademark lawyer and a sports fan, I like the example of the New Jersey Devils. Their red “NJ” logo has been registered since January 10, 1984, but of course the ® symbol isn’t on their uniform. And why should it be? The uniform itself tells us that they are the New Jersey Devils. They do use the symbol, however, on their licensed goods. To me, this strikes the right balance. We already know, as sports fans, who the mark belongs to, so the appearance of the symbol seems redundant to me on the uniform when worn on the field. But using it in all other areas, such as licensed goods, is an effective way to communicate that the mark is a registered trademark and that the goods or services represented by the mark come from the proper companies.
So you’re basically saying that the Cubs’ logo is no more (or less) trademarked than any other team’s logo, but that the Cubs engage in a bit of overkill by taking the extra step of using the ® symbol on their uniform?
So there you have it: Just about every team could add the symbol, but the Cubs are the only ones who’ve gone to that extreme. Let’s hope it stays that way. Big thanks to Anthony for helping to explain this complex situation.
Personally, I still suspect the symbol began appearing on the uniform more or less by accident (i.e., the company making the chest patches based their embroidery pattern on a logo sheet that happened to have the trademark symbol, and it’s been stuck there ever since), but I suspect we’ll never know for sure.
One thing we can try to determine, though, is exactly when the symbol began appearing on the uniform. The earliest instance I’ve found of the symbol appearing in a positively dated photo is 1984. But the photo for this 1983 baseball card was almost certainly taken in 1982 (Jenkins didn’t pitch for the Cubs in ’81, so it couldn’t have been taken then), so ’82 is now my benchmark year. If you have any old Cubs yearbooks, programs, or any other photographic evidence that would help sort this out, please get in touch.
Pedro Update: I’m not declaring a winner yet in the “name Pedro’s missing button” sweepstakes, because one of the submissions raises some interesting questions. In yesterday’s comments, Roger Faso wrote, “Pedro unbuttons that button to whip out his crucifix and kiss it. I say we call it the Jesus Hole.” This is the first time I’ve heard anyone suggest a reason for the open button. If true, it will definitely affect the name we assign to this phenomenon.
Just one problem: I’ve never noticed Pedro pulling his necklace out through the area of the second button. Has anyone else? I wrote to Roger and asked if he’d actually seen Pedro doing this, or if he was just speculating, or joking, or what, but so far no response. Stay tuned.
Special Raffle for NYC-Area Readers: We’ve all seen the final few pitches of Don Larsen’s perfect game. But how’d you like to see the entire game (well, beginning in the top of the 2nd), complete with the original play-by-play commentary and even the original commercials? A screening of precisely that will be taking place on Thursday, July 10th, at 6pm. It’s at B.B. King’s in Times Square (odd venue, right?), and the ticket price is $30 (crazy, right?), but I’ve got two pairs of tickets to give away.
To enter, send a blank e-mail with your name in the subject line to uniraffle [at] earthlink [dot] net (please note that this is not the usual Uni Watch e-mail address) by 10pm eastern this Friday. Please enter only if you’ll actually be able to use the tickets yourself. Since that stipulation will narrow down the pool of entrants considerably, there will be no bonus entries for membership program enrollees on this raffle — one person, one entry, period. I’ll announce the winners next Monday.
I’ll be attending the screening myself, by the way, so maybe we can convene a Uni Watch gathering afterward. More details on that later on.
Uni Watch News Ticker: I’m completely stoked over my latest vintage jersey. No idea what it was used for (soccer?), but it’s totally boss (extra-special thanks to Scott Turner, who tipped me wise to this one after spotting it on eBay). … Father’s Day follow-up: A few of the White Sox players wore blue face paint on Sunday (with thanks to Steve Johnston). … Good article here about the Yankees prospect who can pitch with either arm and wears a glove with six fingers and two webs (with thanks to Eric Stengel). … Latest accessory for rodeo clowns: faux stirrups (good catch by Benjamin C. Graff). … I’ve heard about Tony Conigliaro wearing a “Tony C.” NOB, but I’d never seen it until now (great find by Rich Kauffman). … Logo creep alert from Greg Riffenburgh, who notes that Czech soccer coach Karel Brückner had a Puma logo on his shirt collar the other day. … Also from Greg: Bit of a dust-up regarding the new TSA uniforms. … Great stripe-o-rama submission from John Calabrese. The player is Daultan Leveille of the St. Catherine’s Falcons. … Many of you have seen this already, but Michigan’s new Adidas football jerseys will apparently look like this and this. … “I was watching the Tigers/Giants game Monday night,” writes Alan Topolski. “They were highlighting different moments in Giants history, and they highlighted July 5, 1987, when Kevin Mitchell made his Giants debut by homering at Wrigley. The equipment manager must have been given very short notice, because Mitchell had NNOB!” … I’ll be off the grid for most of today (interviewing for a Mets coaching position, natch), so play nice. Back tomorrow.