from the mascots-gone-rogue dept
Upon searching our site, to my surprise, we've actually discussed the intersection of trademark law and sports team mascots in the past. There was the University of Oregon's duck mascot, who looked a bit too much like Disney's Donald Duck for the company's taste, though it ended up dropping its trademark claim. Or there was the time that automaker Dodge went after a high school that copied its logo for their team mascot. While neither case seemed particularly necessary or a good use of anyone's time, they also lacked the kind of true hilarity that aggressive trademark protection, even when entirely understandable, can produce. For that, you need a company or organization that is so brain-addled from at least a century of successlessness that they'd take a minor trademark dispute and not only go way beyond a reasonable effort to protect its good name, but would also do so with an in-person exchange best suited for a bad comedy movie.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Chicago Cubs. The Cubbies, for those of you who don't know this, are one of only a few Major League Baseball teams that don't have a team mascot. Or, rather, they don't have an official team mascot. What they had, however, was a weirdo named Jon Paul Weier, who dressed up in a bear suit and team uniform as "Billy Cub" (groan). That is, they had Billy Cub until recently, when the team sent him a 100-page cease-and-desist letter ordering him to suspend all mascotting duties.
Citing allegations of trademark infringement, the League sent Weier a 100-plus page letter, ordering him to stop wearing the Billy Cub costume, and engaging in “unabated Mascot Activities.”Now, before we all get up in arms about how Weir should be defended from the rich, evil Cubs, let me expand on my earlier indication that Weier is a strange guy. Fans have complained that Billy Cub occasionally enjoys following anyone who snaps a photo of him in public with demands for tips. Also, he sometimes like to use ethnic slurs and foul language. These complaints have commonly come with the indication that Billy Cub is an official team-sanctioned mascot. In other words, this is trademark protection done right.
But being on the right side of intellectual property protection doesn't mean the Cubs aren't behaving with a silliness more typical of a Monty Python sketch. A 100-page letter? For a jackass in a costume? Oh, and it gets even better.
After consulting with a lawyer, [Weier] ignored it. And the next day, he said he was confronted by a Cubs executive.It's hard to imagine a scene more funny than a Chicago Cubs executive vociferously arguing with a pantomiming grown man in a bear costume. In the end, yes, Billy Cub should go away, but there has to be a better way to spend Cubs employees' time than writing novellas to racist bear-men and engaging in one-sided arguments with them to boot.
“Someone came up to me, very angry, and said, ‘Did you not get our letter?’ ”
Problem was, Weier was in costume and in character at the time. And since Billy doesn’t speak, he says he just stood there, gesturing and shrugging, as the executive in question got angrier.